Learn to Live with Pain, Then Go One Better ~ BitterSweetLife

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Learn to Live with Pain, Then Go One Better

I want to think that I'm gradually getting used to life's resistance. It's the feeling of gravity clutching at your calves on the trail, the sensation of the wind launching a steady, cold counteroffensive on your dream of effortless movement. It's the way that things transpire so as to give truth its stranger-than-fiction name, the way nothing goes down exactly the way you thought it should, and why circumstances deviate wildly from the happy expected.

Job offers fall through, summer ends too soon, marriage is harder than construction work, writing pays about a dollar, babies need less sleep than their parents, Windows crashes repeatedly, and those designer sunglasses you left in the gas station for 30 seconds are long gone. Also, your back hurts. Welcome to the bittersweet world. Select your age and location and enjoy.

I tried to write bittersweetness into my blog to help myself get acclimated to reality, and a few years later, I'm hoping that I've started to feel the effects. I want to think that I don't get angry at God as easily when I taste the bitter side of the equation. I used to expect, on the average, that sweet would be the stronger part of life (it will be, ultimately, may even be the only taste, at the end)--and then I would have these fist-shaking, chair-kicking, yelling matches with God when things went badly wrong. I would yell until I got hoarse and then there would be a tiny kersplash as my anger was effortlessly enveloped by his forgiving silence. It was my expectations of perfection that were out of place.

No one has it easy down here. No one has any warrant for thinking that their bitter ticket has already been punched, free ride. Fallen earth has it in for everyone; everybody has it coming. Broken people bring it on each other and we bring it on ourselves. Most of those jaded aphorisms about how everything is dark and hopeless are fairly observant, as far as they go--they're one-sided, but a good indicator of what might happen tomorrow. That's the bitter pill we all have to swallow.

But then there's Jesus, sweet Jesus, who brings the other side of the equation into play.

I see joy as the sudden streams of sunlight that cut through the pallor of a Seattle sky, hope as the song that defeats the radio static on a back-country road, Jesus as the rescue that comes unasked, from a stranger. The backdrop of life is dull, unclear, dangerous--and against it Christ flares up in his epic glory.

That's why I'm not advocating a Zen-like detachment in the face of pain and resistance. I'm not sure we'll ever stop being shocked by death and wreckage and sorrow. I'm not sure we ever should be. After all, it's the pain that's out of place. But we can learn to expect it, to brace ourselves, to get hit again and again and again and remain composed. To pull it off with a certain flair would be ideal. And then we can get up and be ready to do it all again tomorrow.

And this is not impossible, is not unthinkable. We can do this, because resistance is not futile. We learn that sad wisdom, that life is painful, but we gain the more powerful corollary: that sweetness is stronger, older, and younger, all at once, that sweetness has a name and is invincible for those who know him.

So we can learn the ability to stop yelling at Jesus and savor the surprise of pure grace--around us always, hidden but eternal, stronger than darkness, all the time. That's what I hope is happening to us all.

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Will Robison said...

Ariel - I am often amazed at your prose. You seem to hit the nail on the head 99 out of 100 times. But this time I am even more impressed that you are doing it on little sleep and pure joyful adrenalin.

It's the reason I keep coming back! Thank you for your good words.

Manna said...

Arie, you are so very real and I appreciate that in you. I am not and never will be able to express in writing the way you do. But I enjoy what you have to offer here! Thanks!

A Modern Mom said...

This is absolutely beautiful. The depth and realism of what you express truly shows a level of spiritual growth that I am still striving for. I said it before and I will say it again --- You rock!!!

May God bless you and your family.

[hope] said...

Very beautiful. :-)

I think it's the pain in life that gives depth and meaning to the joy of being alive; much like the dust in the air creates a more beautiful sunset. Not that it is ever easy to go through difficult times, but it's such hard times that mold us into stronger people. It's those hard times in life that deepen our faith and hope in God; without such times, our faith would shallow and there'd be no need for hope.

colleen said...

lovely Ariel. i am praying about this to become real for so many people. and myself :)


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife