Complaining has been a problem for me recently. Or rather I’ve had no problem complaining, it’s the toxic fallout of stewing, criticizing, looking for worst-case scenarios and playing out arguments in my head that has plagued me. I discovered this quote from Richard Rohr today that resonates with me:
“I will offer you a simple litmus test to determine whether a person has healthy or unhealthy religion. What do they do with their pain—even their daily little disappointments? Do they transform their pain or do they transmit it?
We all have pain—it’s the human situation, we all carry it in a big black bag behind us and it gets heavier as we get older: by betrayals, rejections, disappointments, and wounds that are inflicted along the way. If we do not find some way to transform our pain, I can tell you with 100% certitude we will transmit it to those around us.
At the end of life, and probably early in life, too, the question is, “What do I do with this disappointment, with this absurdity, with this sadness?”
I have known people who carry their big black bag on their chest and open it up for you as often as speak to you. And I’ve known other folks whose bag somehow seems to have a perpetual hole in the bottom.
I was talking with a friend the other day about responding to pain. And to another friend about adjusting our attitude. And with both the consensus was this is no small matter. It is one thing to practice the habits that essentially amount to squeezing my eyes tight and whistling along with Monty Python (come on, you know it),
Always look on the bright side of life…
It’s quite another thing to make a fundamental worldview shift and learn to deal with the vast quantities of pain and disappointment I encounter in a transformative way rather than deny it and/or transmit it. On the other hand, as I admitted in yet another recent conversation (interesting how most of my processing these days is through conversation), I used to be the sort of person who who contributed more positively and constructively to my world; lately I seem to be trending toward the negative. So on these terms at least my worldview has already shifted at least once.
In an article on suffering, a Harvard Law Professor writes about his own suffering ,
“Cancer and chronic pain remain ugly things, but the enterprise of living with them is not an ugly thing.”
This strikes me as close to reality. The “enterprise of living” with pain, disappointment and tragedy is not by definition a bad thing, though the pain itself is notably convincing to the contrary. Is misery as much a self-chosen mantle as joy and hopefulness then? Is a profound worldview change as simple as a deliberate series of choices? I figure if I got myself here somehow, then somehow there is a way out.
“How He Loves”
David Crowder* Band
David Crowder and his pals dare you not to smile when you see the cover of their forthcoming album, Church Music, a jab at the glitzy charm of religious television. “How He Loves”, the first single off the record is at once utterly top-of-your-lungs singable and awkwardly clunky. The verses are poetic in a high church hymn sort of way, with more creative rhyming and unexpected meters, and when I first heard them in a congregational singalong setting I found them darn well inaccessible. But it’s the singable chorus that gets lodged in my brain, another THTSIMH example of passionate melody carrying my day. And with that said, here’s a verse:
We are his portion and he is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…
So I’m at the Reds game Sunday with my family and telling my four year old we’re rooting for the guys in the red shirts. So the guy in the black shirt steps up to bat and Zeke yells at the top of his lungs, “Hey blacks, get out!” I resist the urge to remind him we’re a block from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and he really shouldn’t say things like that, and tell him instead, no, call them the Rockies please.
A New York Times article by a woman married 20 years to hear her husband say one day, “I don’t love you anymore.” Her completely unexpected response here. Worth the full read.