I’m not really into suffering – are you? I do my best to avoid it. But in my walk as a professional friend, I come across suffering every day. If I don’t encounter it my self, people bring it to me. News of neighbours and family and old friends. If that doesn’t fill up my pockets I can always turn on the radio and get news of suffering of people I don’t know. Church media provides me with news of suffering from people who drop off the corporate media’s sensational list.
And so, I wonder why, when news of a loved one’s suffering arrives, it hits a wall of defenses. This week my mother’s undergoing reconstructive surgery on her spine – again. I can’t imagine the excruciating pain. Like giving birth for weeks on end.
A friend is losing his leg to an infection. What could that be like? To lose mobility and a part of you that you’ve been so attached to since birth?
Worse yet, another friend was told that his cancer is inoperable and untreatable. He received a death sentence.
My first reaction to such news is a numbing. I feel just “flat” when I hear about people I love suffering. It’s a defense mechanism. I know that I am afraid of the torrent of emotion that might rise – fear, hurt, sorrow, anger, rage, doubt – doubt isn’t a strong enough word, - emotions that might take me towards a seeking of oblivion. I am afraid to feel the pain, to even get close to the pain, to let it affect me. I step back behind a wall and peek over it. I put on a led vest to cover my heart and guts while the x-ray radiation of the news pierces me to the bone and slowly creeps in under and around the wall.
There’s a little bush outside my cabin window. Don’t know what variety it is. In the summer it just becomes part of the greenery among the tall grasses with pines above and lilacs bushes beyond. This week the whole bush was transformed into a deep blood red – overnight. Just the same way suffering changes our lives – one day things are normal, the next day “normal” is transformed.
Because my mind is on the Prophets of the Old Testament. Because I have been talking to people about the ways that our MAKER tries to get messages across to us. Because I have a vivid imagination that I let GOD play with. That bush is now a burning bush – fire red – Like the bush that spoke to Moses - burning bright but not being consumed.
This is what it says to me today.
While suffering changes and disrupts and disturbs – it does not consume the roots and branches of who we are.
Suffering burns away the dross of seemingly immediate and important priorities and reveals what is essential and true about us.
What did the MAKER say to Moses once the burning bush had his attention?
“I have heard my people’s cry.”
And after a little discussion the gist of the message was “I am sending YOU.”
When Moses objects and tries to inform the All-knowing-One of his inadequacies, GOD gets pissed. “GO”
That little shot of anger seems to burn away from Moses the fear and hurts and mistakes he’d been carrying around inside. The jolt reminded Moses that his life, his priorities, his comforts were all a gift from the MAKER – and now that CREATOR was claiming that life.
Moses was given an incredible, impossible mission. To free a people enslaved by the most powerful nation on earth.
Are you a free person? Or enslaved? Who do you serve?
I’m not free. I am enslaved within a consumer culture that demands a lifetime measured by consumption of material goods. The pace of keeping those goods flowing demands the necessity of conveniences. Those conveniences create a mountain of waste – filling holes in the earth, seeping in waterways. We now hear reports that even our oceans are congested with garbage. Mother Nature is choking. The earth’s wealth is congested and choked off from circulating to the world’s suffering peoples. GOD hears their cry. The cycle of life is being twisted to serve Pharoah, Egypt, the pyramids of ever greater prosperity. GOD hears the cry of the EARTH.
Burning deep inside is a holy anger. ENOUGH!
Enough of gentle Suzuki encouragements to change.
Enough of government green-washing hype about all they’re doing while we wait for the leadership that will truly transform our economy.
(Sorry Mother Nature, but the recession’s over.)
Where are those leaders? It’s you, it’s me. Enough of Moses’ excuses why its just not convenient to go right now - GOD – can’t you find someone else?
The MAKER calls us into service, out of Egypt, into a stripped down organic, inclusive, community-focussed lifestyle – depending on GOD and one another – and not on Egypt’s wealth - within the natural circle of life.
Where do I find the courage to go, to step away, to keep saying YES to the change that’s gonna be hard?
Remember my friend who got the death sentence this week?
You know where he was the next morning?
He reported for duty at the church. A foot soldier in the change to come.
He is in the service of a LORD who said “if you spend your life trying to avoid suffering and find security – you’ll find only more fear. But if you are willing to go beyond your comfort zones in the service of love – you will find life – full, challenging, rewarding, painful and powerful LIFE.
My friend who lost his leg is focused on getting well so he can get back into the service of the LORD he loves. His body is diminished but his heart just keeps growing.
My mother, who’s pain brought me into this world, suffers still. But I know that her courage, her song, her spirit is fed by a lifetime of the joy of serving a MASTER whose anger burns bright for the healing of all creation and calls us – commands all who will listen - into the radical generosity of spending everything we’ve got in the service of that eternal circle of life.
That’s what the bush told me. Crazy eh?