Riddled with pain, ceaseless pain, unfair pain. Why must we suffer? Her words ring in her ears, a shell of bitterness exploding near her heart.
To suffer: to endure pain or distress; to sustain loss or damage; to be subject to disability or handicap.
First watching him unravel, then rehab, then food stamps, then the fighting—always silent and simmering. At least the kids are gone now. More silent nights, empty mornings. How long can we go on like this? Then one empty morning: emergency surgery. Something is terribly wrong. It’s the colon, all twisted up inside her aging body. It’ll have to be partially removed. Eight months of physical and emotional trauma: baggy clothes, liquid diets, naps upon naps, visits from friends; more silence. Why? Why are You allowing this to happen? What are you trying to teach me?
She learns to cope through the years, ceding to his control because it’s easier. She still loves him somehow, so it seems like the right thing to do. But is it? I don’t know anymore… Waking up alone, feeling a rustling pang in her heart—something used to live inside there, but she doesn’t know how long it has been gone, where it went. She turns onto her other hip, the less arthritic one, and tries to fall asleep. Soon, the pain causes her to lie on her back, stare at the ceiling, and bargain with Him. If only… When will you relent? Please… I’m so tired… so tired… SO tired.
Her children see her periodically, but not enough. They worry about her, care for her. Mostly she seems fine, so they go about their own lives with their own problems, until they wake up in the night to hear her crying on the sofa just outside the guest room. I’m fine, honey. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be just fine.
Just fine. The perfect answer to a life full of pain and hardship and doubt. Just fine. The patented, blasé, over-used excuse to avoid telling them what’s really at stake. We’re getting a divorce. She tries to protect them but they are old enough to know how difficult this marriage has been, how one-sided and sacrificial and costly. Her soul is at stake. I can’t go on living like this. Nor should she, they think. But it feels like this final act will cost too much. Can I follow through? Will I be brave enough? It will take too much of her soul.
She tries to walk with her children—grown adults—through the beautiful park where they grew up. She hobbles and stumbles and spasms her way to a nearby bench. This cannot be right. My greatest love is the outdoors. So. Much. Pain. She needs to rest, to stretch, to buy a new body. Could she trade it in for a new model? Wouldn’t that be lovely? Her children take pity on her and help her back to the car. She really should get that looked at. But there’s the bills, and the lawyer, and the moving. I can’t take another thing.
She begins to cry. Her life seems like an unjust travesty; an epic Russian novel where all the best characters die tragically. Why must we suffer, Lord?! I have served you with my whole heart. Why must you TAKE and TAKE?! Her children have no answers. They can only hold her as she cries, the parent-child roles reversed in the cycle of life’s cruel irony. She is grateful for them, but she is also ashamed at having to drag them through this. If only she could live unscathed, surrounded by the beauty of Eden and all its delight; a pain-free life. What a glorious miracle. What an unrealistic dream.
She goes to church and is comforted by people she knows and loves, and by the message of scripture preached. But she is still left wanting. When will this be over? Take the pain away, sweet Jesus. If only it were so simple, so instantaneous. And so she cries through the service, longing for an eternal home that seems so far from her present reality. She weeps for her no-longer husband, for her broken family. She also weeps for her broken body, riddled with scars and pain and disability. Will this be how I spend my days? Weeping? Mourning? What good can come of all this suffering? Tell me!
She doubts and toils and sleeps—a lot. She sleeps to ail the pain of her body, her soul. She sleeps to remember happier days of old. She sleeps to see glimpses of Heaven; peace and abundant joy overwhelm her in these dreams of Zion. This is what she clings to. Peace. Joy. Lay me beside still waters, deliver me from evil. Deliver me…deliver me…
There is singing: echoes of beautiful notes surround her like the sound bouncing through a canyon. Sweet water touches her lips as she takes a long drink from a golden chalice offered to her. Whose hands are these? The hands brush the dripping water off her chin and raise her face. Those eyes! Penetrating her very soul, eyes stare deeply back at her from a radiant face. “Come” he says. She begins to walk. What?! She feels no pain, no aches, no shooting spasms. Only joy: pure, unadulterated joy. She runs across a field, dappled with flowers and long, abundant grass. She is running! She can’t believe it. How long has it been?
The man seems to have caught up with her, smiling. “Welcome” he says. She is crying. Not from pain or heartache or anger, but out of the overwhelming feeling of being fully loved. Never in her life has she felt this intense a feeling. For the first time in all her years of suffering, the hole in her heart that has grown wider and deeper with each new devastation, feels mended. She is finally whole; a wholly new creature.
She walks through the gates, others welcoming her in joyfully. Some she knows already, some she has yet to meet. They all walk toward a radiant, beautiful, smiling man. This man knows them all; he knows the hairs on their head and all the pain they have suffered. He has suffered too. Something about him causes her to surrender to a deep sensation of peace.
She is known. She is loved. She is home. I am Home.
“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away…
Behold, I am making all things new.”