There is pain in this world that words can’t touch. First world, third world, political, cultural – it slapped me in the face this morning.
A fellow photographer lost her almost-three-year old this week. A friend got verbally abused on Facebook for posting a quote from someone’s speech. Another friend shared her experience with extreme pain in Sri Lanka. I searched in vain for words, aching over this real life that picks people up and throws them back down without so much as a by-your-leave.
As I climbed into the shower, I realized it’s not the dead ones I’m sad for. It’s the ones who are left – you, me, the mama with the empty arms where her little girl used to be. When you love somebody and they aren’t in your world anymore, it makes a hole in your heart that never, ever heals.
When real life is only dust and ashes, why – HOW – do we go on? How do we get up in the morning and keep living the lives we lived before?
No matter how much good I have in my life, I wrestle against God allowing so much pain in the world. And as I’ve wrestled, unable to hate Him because He is good, I have been realizing that all of life is really a life-and-death thing, not a goods-and-no-goods thing. Being alive isn’t just about breathing – it is is about making choices: to love or to hate, to embrace or to reject, to open our hearts or to build up walls.
First world or third world, real life is about these choices, not just about survival. This is what it means to be human, wherever we are. It’s easy for me to “have a life” in America, unlike it is for many in third world countries, but death isn’t easier here because I have “wealth.” It isn’t less overwhelming there because they’re more used to it.
For all the beauty I seek out and share, I can’t thwart death, and that feels like the ultimate defeat.
But when Jesus said “he who loses his life for My sake will find it,” He wasn’t merely talking about martyrdom. This Man who never took a political or cultural stand was talking about living every day with your heart broken for those you love. He didn’t shut pain down or shut people out to ensure His survival and keep His heart intact.
I live in this world, for richer or for poorer, caught in an exquisite middle that keeps me alive to love and to loss. The suffering of Christ to which I am called is the pain of loss that comes with loving real and loving deep.
The water ran hot over my skin with the sound of the song I’d left playing on my iPhone: “He is good, He is good, His love endures forever.” I reached for Him who means the most to me, and He spoke comfort I’d read over but never really acknowledged: “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”
Somehow, He must be enough to go on until every tear is wiped from our eyes.
For Jill Thomas, whose mother-arms are empty today.