Sep 112014 7 Responses

Everyone’s Pain Is Just Below the Surface

Celtic spirituality uses the phrase “thin place.” It’s a place where the distance between heaven and earth seems more thin than other places. In those locations, God seems more near, heaven seems not-so-distant, and eternity seems not so abstract.

There are many “thick places” on earth. There are few places that I doubt God more than in the NICU. I wonder about his plan as I view the chaos of the Middle East. I can grow apathetic toward his presence in the repetition of day-to-day life.

Because of these “thick places,” I need “thin places.” (See: Recognize Your Child’s Pain)

Hopefully we all have a few.  In memory of a lost colleague, my former professor spoke last week of the chapel at the University as one of his “thin places.” There are several such places in my life. God often seems more real in the midst of corporate worship with my church family. He feels more possible on a mountain top with my wife. He seems more loving as one of my children sleeps on my shoulder.

But there are other “thin places.” There are places where the gap between the happiness we present to the world and the pain which is buried deep into our souls is not as thick. The sorrow rises to surface and is exposed.

Everyone has pain. Some might have it more than others, but no one has is exempt from the arrows of this world. We’ve all be wounded. Yet we quickly learn in a survival-of-the-fittest world, we should not show sorrow. We put on a facade, pretend to be healthy, and bury our sorrow as deep as we can.

And most of the time no one ever knows. We can smile at Wal-Mart, seem satisfied at a school function, and put on a pretty face for a church social. But deep within us the pain resides. And in some locations the cover-up is less thick than others. Those thin places threaten our image of perfect people.

September 11 is one of those “thin places” for our country. We can appear strong on most days. Our military might is unquestioned. Our influence in the world is unmatched. Yet our sorrow is deep. You can see it from the oil still surfacing in Pearl Harbor. You can experience it in a hundred National Cemeteries across the country. You can hear it in the moments of silence as we remember those who have been lost. (See: What 9/11 Reminds Us About Marriage)

On August 11, I don’t remember the pain as well as I do on September 11. I remember the fear of the day, the sorrow for those who were lost, the uncertainty of what was to come, the gratitude for the safety of my family, the guilt that not everyone would experience the same reunions.

The pain is always there, but on most days it is just below the surface. On a few days, it rises to the surface.

As it is for our country, so it is for all of us. (See: God Controls Our Darkest Days)

We all have pain. Some wounds are self-inflicted. Some have been unintentionally delivered by those who loved us most. Others have been intentionally buried into our hearts.

On most days we bury the pain, but on some days it rushes to the surface.

I see it as I preach a sermon and tears begin to flow by those in the audience. I observe it when the random song brings back a memory and a conversation grows silent. I feel it when a chance public encounter goes from joyous to somber because a name is mentioned or a past experience is brought to mind.

We all have thin places of hurt—locations where our pain cannot be buried or hidden. Our temptation is to run from those places, to ignore them, deny them, and do everything in our power to avoid them. But I would say we should run to those thin places of hurt. We should have the courage to confront the memories, recognize the pain, and cry the tears.

We should do so because there is an odd connection between the thin places of hurt and the thin places of heaven. In those locations where our pain rises to the surface, so often God makes himself known. (See: How We Respond to Suffering)

We would expect the opposite. We would assume God is most real to us when we are most happy. We would think eternity feels most real when our pain is at its least. But that is not our experience. It is not God’s plan.

Jesus revealed to us the connection between God and suffering. While on this earth, pain would forever be a place in which God would have the power to make himself known. The thin places of hurt would forever be intertwined with the thin places of heaven.

So we shouldn’t run from these days. We shouldn’t avoid these places of remembrance and pain. We should embrace them because even as our pain rises to the surface, so too, our God will comfort us in the midst of our sorrow. (See: 7 Recommended Books for When Life Hurts)

September 11 is a thin place of hurt. But thanks be to God it can also be a thin place of heaven.

7 Responses to Everyone’s Pain Is Just Below the Surface
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