I bet I have spent more time, energy, and head space on avoiding pain than on any other single thing in my whole life.
In a way, this isn’t a bad thing. There is no particular reason that I ought to seek out pain. But my avoidance of hurt… I have made this an idol. The center of my existence, sometimes. I am pretty sure I am not alone.
We have these distractions that are almost too numerous to mention. Music and movies. Junk food. Books. Television. Drugs. Sex. Much of the self help movement. Sports. Games. Work. Play.
None of these are bad things. Except that all of them are bad things. At least, they are bad when we engage them as a way of disengaging.
I have, so often, engaged all of those things as a way of disengaging. A way of running away.
This is why it so important, and so hard, just to sit. Just to be.
When I am sitting, and meditating, there are one hundred things I want to do. There are a hundred things I want to think about. If you are like me, even these mental trips, these thought experiments, even these are attempts to get away from right here and right now.
When I put on my big boy pants, and face up to the things that hurt me, to the things that cause fear, to the things that cause pain, there is a sort of exhilaration. Because I find out a couple important things, quite quickly.
The first thing I find out is that I am not actually going to collapse under the weight of the things that weigh me down. There is this great quote in the bible: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
As long as I run away from the things that hurt me, I am sure I will be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, destroyed. But when I sit in silence, I realize that I am “only” afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. None of these things are fun. And yet… They are not as bad as they seemed to be.
When I sit through the hard things, when I face them head-on, I suddenly find that there is room in my life for more than this. Each moment, — this very moment– is filled with more than just the hard stuff. It has joy and glory and peace. I never would have seen these if I had kept running.
I don’t completely understand the end of the verse I quoted above. But I know that you have to get through death to find rebirth. We carry deaths of so many different sizes and shapes within us. When we face these down, that is how we get to a new life. I guess this is what it means, to manifest Jesus’ life in our bodies; our willingness to die opens up the possibility of rebirth.