I’ve thought about starting a blog for quite some time, but have never felt brave enough to do it. I’m not sure how often I will post, but I decided to start something now because of what I’ve been pondering over the past month. I’ve been thinking a lot about present experiences, being present to our experiences, how a life lived honestly holds both sides of the spectrum of emotions together, and how important our physical bodies are as humans—we are more than just a spirit or soul. All these thoughts seemed to come to a climax yesterday morning while at church. And since I spent so much time thinking and processing what happened through writing about it, I thought I may as well share it, in hopes that it might encourage someone.
I’ve been attending a Sunday School class where we’ve been studying a new hymn every week. This week’s hymn was a more obscure one called “I am the Bread of Life.” The entire hymn is quotes from John chapters 6 and 11, and the theme is resurrection. During the discussion time in class, I was struck by the things several people said concerning death and resurrection, especially following the testimony of one person who was hurting deeply. I honestly don’t remember who said them, nor is it my wish to bash on them or be overly critical. But there is much that was said that I disagree with, and while I was not confident I had the words (or composure) to express what I was thinking in the moment, I’ve thought a lot about it since and have clarified what it was that so bothered me (I suppose that’s also my introverted tendency: I never know the right words to say in the moment, but have all the words five hours later. Ha.). So here follows my thoughts (rants?): the words I wish I was brave and tactful enough to say to people at church who don’t want to cry at funerals and are convinced that all our suffering is only spiritual.
God is so much more than we allow ourselves to believe.
We are so much more than we allow ourselves to believe.
This matters, this body matters, these experiences and present situations matter.
Now matters. Resurrection is not just a foggy future hope, it is a present reality.
There's more to life than just spirit. There's more to now than just what comes later.
Life is both/and. We limit ourselves with either/or, false dichotomies. What if there’s a duality instead? What if the spirit matters, and the body matters? What if the future matters, and the now matters? What if my experiences matter, and your experiences? What if our joy matters, and our sorrow? What if both pain and rejoicing can be experienced together? It’s not an either-or. We are both-and creatures. We are so much more than we allow ourselves to believe.
But we are afraid of believing it. We are afraid of naming here, afraid that that will give it power over us. But what if naming here actually frees us to live more honestly and humanly? Because not naming here won’t change the fact that we’re here and not there. So we might as well look here in the face, calling it what it is and relieving ourselves from the anxiety of knowing-but-not-wanting-to-admit what is already there.
And here includes being in a body, being inside space and time and circumstances, things we have little control over. Perhaps we are so afraid of naming our pain because we don't want to admit that our physical bodies matter. We cannot name our pain if we cannot name our bodies. We don’t want to believe that we are more than just spirit and soul, that we are affected by the physicality of what's happening around and in us, and not just spiritual realities.
Perhaps we do not know what to do with suffering because we are so focused on the hope of a future resurrection, when death will no longer haunt our steps and all things will be made right. And of course, we must cling to that hope. But the trouble comes when we infer that therefore, right now, death doesn’t matter. So we are confused when death still happens, and we don’t know what to do with the pain we feel when a loved one’s spirit is stripped from their body. And we try to convince ourselves that it’s okay not to cry, because we’ll see them again one day in heaven, ignoring the reality that death is unnatural, that our bodies and spirits were never meant to be separated from each other.
But if we also realize that resurrection is a current reality, we will see that God is renewing us right now, even in the midst of our suffering and death—we cannot limit him by assuming he is only able to work at some vague distant time in the future. And if he is working now, our experiences now therefore matter. What is in the future matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters. And when we realize that, we will be able to face our current experiences with more honesty, calling them for what they are and realizing that we have hope even now, when everything is going right and when everything is going absolutely wrong. And we will be able to grieve and lament over suffering and death, because they are part of the reality of our experience in this life.
I am reminded of a quote from a book I read this past month, which has been one of the sources of all this pondering about living honestly in our present experiences. While the author’s discussion here is about sin, we could also apply his words to suffering:
At the root of all this, my hope is to become more honest with myself, allowing myself to acknowledge the weight of the here and now of my present experience, while also acknowledging the weight of others’ heres and nows, because most often my here is not the same as another’s here. This is such an important thing, because if I try to advise another in their pain while ignoring their present reality, the message I give is that their current suffering doesn’t matter, and that is no comfort at all—it’s actually insensitive and hurtful to the one in pain. This is something I’ve been growing in but am still working on, and it’s something I want to pursue wholeheartedly, because I believe welcoming here leads to a fuller, more wonderfully human life.
So here’s to living fully in the here and now, with our hearts set on the promised future glory.