Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pain And Loss

Ecclesiastes 1:18
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

"I look around and I see these young faces and I think I mean I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh.... I pi**ed away all my money believe it or not.
I chased off anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately, I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.
You know when you get old in life things get taken from you.
That's, that's part of life.
But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff."
Al Pacino - Any Given Sunday

If there's something that we all go through in life, it's pain and loss. The effects are deep and can last a lifetime. For me, on a physical level my thrice operated on ankle causes me constant pain. I've only recently learned that just about every other ache and pain in my body traces back to me dealing with that pain. The injury also has caused loss: I can't play sports at the level I used to and I've had to stop playing some sports completely because of it. On a larger level, that's just a small example of what goes on when we live life. It seems that everywhere I look I see pain and loss.

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind
Jackson Browne - Running On Empty

These past few years have been heightened with pain and loss as I walk through life. It seems that I've endured the difficulties of twenty years in the past two. With it has come stress, deep bouts of depression and anxiety, loss of sleep, nightmares, and just general lack of energy. I tried reading a book recently and just can't seem to focus enough to get through a chapter. I've seen so many other people suffering and I either feel it so deeply that it brings me down or I just shut down. I keep thinking just how low my tank has been and yet somehow I continue on. It even has taken its toll on me physically as I have suffered from Shingles last year. My friend Phil said that it's part of the cost of intentionally ministering to people: it's full of pain and loss and you're going to feel it. I continually find myself skimming over Ecclesiastes relating to what Solomon had to say and was only subtly able to answer. What do we do with all of this pain and loss?

Well, people got used to seeing them both together.
But now he's gone and life goes on, nothing lasts forever, oh no.
She gets the house and the garden, he gets the boys in the band.
Some of them his friends, some of them her friends, some of them understand.
Lord knows that this is just a small town city, yes, and everyone can see you fall.
James Taylor and JD Souther - Her Town Too

I've been hesitant to write about this but I'm in the final stages of my impending divorce. It's been a painful journey. I know that I'm very much responsible for not dealing with my junk over the years and people have suffered for that. I know that in many ways I deserve the full force of the fallout from this situation. I now live a life seeking new structure. It's full of emptiness and loneliness. It's a situation of my own doing. It's consequence of hurting those I was called to love. It's full of pain and loss.

Ecclesiastes 3:20
All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

Psalm 90:10
Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 

I have covered in great detail the ongoing struggle my precious daughter,Amanda is going through. I think of her and the pain she goes through. It is a helpless feeling knowing there's little I can do to alleviate it. Even worse was the time that I had to face the possibility of losing her. It's a thought no parent even gets close to entertaining - it's just too painful. Yet, one day in April I had to really look that possibility in the face. I'm seeing now how deeply that impacted me. It has taken me to a place that I never wanted to go to and now that I have been there it haunts me with the pain of the possibility deep loss on the most personal level.

I'm not sure if this is a new pattern (and hope not) but these past two years have also had the pain and loss of death on the forefront of my mind. I recently had to put my beloved dog Dorcas down. It was the right choice, but it was painful. I still come home and realize she's not there to greet me. I think of holding her as the life in her ebbed away. I cried over my dog knowing how good she had been for me. I knew I had suffered a great loss. I think of Will Patterson and young man with a very difficult past who died in his mid thirties. You'd like to hope that his life would have ended with a great triumph. It seems that it was more of a merciful homecoming. He suffered greatly and it seems the pain far outweighed whatever he had done in this life. He was guy you had to like and I feel sad that in this life he didn't find healing he deserved. My friend Chris Drake was a co-worker who was a kind and gentle soul who had a heart to help others. I knew him for over 20 years and I don't think I ever saw him express any ill will towards anybody. Yet cancer knows no boundaries. It is a cruel disease that painfully takes everything from you. There's almost too much to say about the loss of my dad. His influence is deeply imprinted on my life. No matter how old I got, he was an anchor point in my life. That secure tether is no longer there. Shockingly, my cousin Ron died only a few weeks after my dad and of the same ailment. Aneurysms are ticking time bombs. Ron was unlucky enough to have his time bomb go off at the age of 55. He was only a few months away from escorting his daughter down the aisle. Like my dad, he was an anchor in my life. His faith in God, wisdom and kindness were something I could rely on. His family has felt the pain and loss. His passing has deeply altered my view on life. We're close in age, are Christians and share the same ancestry. I realize my time on earth is precious so how do I live in the midst of all of this and continue to find a way to go on?

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
Jackson Browne - Running On Empty

Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean
one half step too late or to early you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second...
I'll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch.
And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.
Al Pacino - Any Given Sunday

Warning: this video has cursing in it:

John 15: 1-4
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

Psalm 90:14-17
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

So what do I make of all of this pain and loss? It's an incomplete set of answers but it's the path I choose to be on (and many times stray from). God is still good. I live with that premise. He suffered great pain and loss for me. He loves me and I'm going to stand by that. Loss is part of the process of stripping away (or pruning) of the good things in life. Good at times is the enemy of great. My time on earth is precious, how am I spending it? Pain is a teacher. It is clear the we learn the most when we suffer. Life's truths are very much "easier said than done". Truly living life involves pain. What are we doing with it? Are we running from it? Ignoring it? Or do we enter into it and feel the depth of it knowing that we will learn the greater truths of life? I see that the deeper we feel pain is also a path to the deeper we feel joy and love.

I see my challenge to continue on with that context. That is the "six inches" in front of my face. At times I can see the whole picture and at times I can only see what right in front of me. At best we get an incomplete view of the life we are living and it is full of pain and loss.

1 comment:

  1. In the depth of your pain, you are still ministering to others.