Daily Devotional: Hope Beyond Our Heartache, Healing From our Pain

prayer-handsI continue looking at prayers that have both pulled me and others through personal trials and struggles.   In the last several posts I have looked at the Lord’s Prayer itself.

 

Here are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, as included in my United Church of Christ Book of Worship:

“Our Father,

Who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins,

As we forgive those who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For this is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

 

I return again to the phrase “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  When I last reflected on these words, I thought about what we can learn about the vexing image of a Kingdom and God as King.   I shared how we ought to be a bit more jesus resurrection appearance5thrown off than often we are by envisioning God as a dictator of any type, benevolent or not.  I explored how different every kingdom, empire, system of conquest, that has ever been is to what Jesus reveals God to be doing.   Jesus as King and God’s plan being fulfilled in this world through Jesus ushering in a Kingdom, we discussed are images dripping with irony. In such imagery Jesus pokes fun at all of our worldly empires whether of Rome or of Wall Street, revealing the deep emptiness their glamor and glistening appearance hide.

I didn’t talk, though, about how these words speak to our individual experiences of suffering, transition, and pain.  Of course, clearly there is a way obvious to anyone crushed under foot by the empires of this world – flattened by the heel of damaging patriarchy, bigotry, sexism, discrimination.  I am sure here in my dear south-land as folks seek to write oppression of queer people into law yet again, the remind that these systems of injustice that bring individuals oppressed by them such pain have been weighed by God, found wanting, and their days are numbered … well, boy howdy, that’s some good news!  It’s an invitation to help be a part of living the future today, by living the reality of a life with justice.

In other instances, though, of facing into pain and loss, trauma and grief, it may take a moment to see how these words speak.  I cannot speak for others but for myself at least, these words are a reminder of how much bigger our world is than my own pain.  You know, in the experience of trauma, grief, loss, our souls become singularities.  Like a collapsing star falls into itself, becoming black holes that capture all light, so the weight of our pain griefcan cause us to collapse in on ourselves.  In such times all we see is our loss, our pain, our suffering. Turned inward by our sorrow, we so easily forget those others around us.  We can fail to see their hope, joy, and sorrow.  It is easy to forget those suffering injustice and illness, those fighting an uphill battle every day when all we see is the darkness washing over the inner landscape of our soul like some reverse sunrise that robs rather than sheds light upon our days.

Every day that I am hurting and I truly pray this prayer, letting the words speak to me as I speak them, I am reminded: as much as I hurt, as much as I must sit with my pain and not bury it, there is more to the world than my loss.  More than my sorrow.  More even than those fleeting moments of joy which at times after the loss of my wife I sought after like some kitten chasing the red dot from a laser pen upon the wall.

This scurry to find peace, this rush to wrestle through the pain, or even the exhaustion that causes us to give up and lay down in our pajamas not wanting to get out of bed in our suffering, is inevitable.  Some of it is even necessary – for stuffing down our feelings, ignoring our pain, has its own explosive consequences long term.    But praying “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven” invites me to see ultimately there is more at work than me and my needs, my pain, my loss.

It also I think gives us some direction about what to do with our pain.

A good friend of mine who passed some years ago was a retired rabbi who was deeply involved in the fight for queer rights in Eastern North Carolina until the day he died.  I still remember when I stood with my preaching stole on my shoulders, Bible in hand, side by mend world 2side with him and spoke out in Fayetteville about how our different faiths spoke out against the issue of injustice.   My dear departed friend shared about the concept of tikkun olam, the Jewish call to “mend the world”.  He shared how his faith taught that our world was broken in places, incomplete, and the call of believers and people of good will was to work together with God to perfect and to mend this world so that God’s word over it “It is good” was made true in each generation.

His words always made me think of the words of the Eagles song –

“There’s a hole in the world tonight

There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight

Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow

 

“They say that anger is just love disappointed

They say that love is just a state of mind

But all this fighting over who is anointed

Oh, how can people be so blind?

 

There’s a hole in the world tonight

There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight

Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow

 

“Oh, they tell me there’s a place over yonder

Cool water running through the burning sand

Until we learn to love one another

We will never reach the promised land

 

“There’s a hole in the world tonight

There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight

Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow

 

“(There’s a hole in the world tonight)

They say that anger is just love disappointed

(There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow)

They say that love is just a state of mind

(There’s a hole in the world tonight)

But all this fighting over who will be anointed

(Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow)

Oh, how can people be so blind?

 

 

“There’s a hole in the world tonight

Hole in the world

There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow

Fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight

Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow

 

“There’s a hole in the world tonight

There’s a hole in the world

(There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow)

 

“A cloud of fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight

(Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow)

Don’t let there be a hole in the world

 

“There’s a hole in the world tonight

(There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow)

Oh there’s a cloud of fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight

(There’s a hole in the world tonight)

Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow

 

“There’s a hole in the world tonight

There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight

Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow

 

“There’s a hole in the world tonight

There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow

There’s a hole in the world tonight”

The call of this prayer is to join God in helping this world become as it is from heaven, “good, very good”.  It is to realize even in our pain we are invited to engage in mending the world.

This begins, of course, with the work on sitting with our pain, being kind to ourselves, and doing the hard work of mending our own lives and our own souls.  But if we do while actively praying “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, we are reminding ourselves such mending is not just for our own good.  Sure, we will feel better.  Sure, we will engage in the world more freely, with more smiles and fewer tears each day that we heal.   But we also heal so that by having faced into our own pain, confronting the tattered edges of our own soul, now we are uniquely suited to be agents of healing for others.

This is what is pictured by the words of Rumi that the broken places in our lives are the holes that become windows that let the light into our world. This is also what is pictured in the Christian faith by the symbols for the way of healing being a man hanging broken and bleeding on the cross and break broken asunder, drink poured out.   Our experience of pain, brokenness, loss, and healing can give us perspective to be ones who help others through their own pain.  They, can when faced with the wider vision this prayer invites us to have, open up these experiences into sources of compassion, lovingkindness, commitment to justice, which open us up to become channels of healing ourselves.

I can’t speak for others, but in my own experiences of loss and pain having this potential hope at the end of my heartaches has given them new meaning.   My losses, my heartaches, and yours as well, need not be without meaning.  With God’s help we can go through our journeys of healing, sure, but also go through them in ways that help us become partners with God in helping others find healing.  In helping heal our world.

That’s a journey worth having.  Let’s stroll over yonder there together.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

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