Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The mystery of suffering

It's late, I'm awake, and pondering. Pondering on such things as the life of Jesus and how many temptations He had to go thru.  It must have been very difficult to share what happened up on that mountain in the desert where the main story line goes.  It must have been gruelling - but contrary to popular belief, I think those were just the first shots, the first serious ones, the wily ones the ones He chose to share with others - but I'm sure they were just a few of the temptations the evil one threw at Him every second of every day.  I cannot imagine how terribly hard it was to be on your toes every single second, with good friends or no, He was never safe from the tempter's reach.

In a society where marriage and a son were so important, it must have been so difficult to deny even your thoughts to go in that direction.  He mingled easily among men and women I'm sure the evil one would maneuver the ones he knew delighted Jesus's heart into His presence again and again and have the women thinking He was so kind, so careful of the women's feeling and he elevated them from the status of possessions to persons, asserting that women, too, had feelings and their hearts were at least as important as the man's were. He couldn't help being attracted to some of them - and many women must have been drawn to a man who treated even the heart of a women caught "in the very act" - He treated her with the respect a respectable woman deserved, because He could see past the sin she had become trapped in , He could see the unsoiled white dove in her heart, and what's more important, He showed that unspoiled dove to her in a way she, too, could see it.

Having lost my own father as a teen ager,  I wonder about His earthly father, Joseph.  He was many years older than Mary - and there is no mention of him in the gospels - and surely there would have been, had he still been living.  The fact that He took upon Himself the problem of having a home provided for Mary after He died, her whole support as the eldest son, was his duty: none of that would have been mentioned if Joseph was still alive. As it was, that one simple act tells us that John must have been his cousin, as the oldest son would never give her into the care of a non-relative. That, too, would not have been necessary had Joseph still been living.

Having sat with my own mother as she lay dying, seeing her pain, being helpless to ease it, holding her hand in the middle of the last night as she slept in fits and starts.  I saw Him, loving His earthly dad so very much.  This was the man who took his pudgy little boys hands and helped him learn the "right" way to hold a chisel, an awl, a hammer.  Taught him which woods worked best for which project.  Showed him how to save the wood chips and curls that fell to the ground for later use as kindling, or a wick The easy camaraderie and private jokes they shared, the memories of his dad tousling his hair when telling him what a good job He had done.  And it was all  necessary - for He would spend His ministry working on hard wooden hearts, getting them to soften but not splinter, His chiseling must be done with a light touch so the wood would respond, not shatter.

And then one day, the shoulders he had ridden upon countless times were no longer strong.  I don't know what illness he had, but it most likely hurt Jesus deeply to watch this man who had been his hero fade away one day after another.  Pain relief was rudimentary in  those days, they most likely used willow - the equivalent of aspirin - and one of the first "real" drugs was laudanum, a strong narcotic.  Any attempt at surgery meant certain death - not knowing how to take c/o infection caused a 100% fatality rate, and it was always a last ditch effort after everything else had been tried and death looked imminent anyway.  Jesus would have been the one who took care of him, as eldest son.

I am a nurse.  I had knowledge of how to make my mom as comfortable as she could be.  But she suffered, probably more that I will ever know.  She carried it bravely.  But if I had the power to take away her pain, to make her completely well, to end her suffering in a legal manner, it would have killed me to refuse it.  In fact, a nurse offered to give my mom a dose that was legal, but it was also a dose that we both knew would have put her to sleep. Forever.  It was very difficult to say no to that.

So how did Jesus handle it?  I've often thought about this, wondered how He handled the pain, knowing with one word He could make Joseph well and hearty again.  One word. But His heavenly Father said, "No"

He learned obedience by the things He *suffered* took on a whole new meaning to me.  It would have pierced my heart to the very soul if, knowing I had the power, I had been commanded not to use it.  And I'm sure the enemy of our souls reminded Him for every second of that weary, painful battle, easing subtle temptation into every snarky whisper.  I get it, came the whisper, so you can't end it quietly and release your dad, after all he's done for You - but surely You could at the very least, ease His pain, can't You?:  What kind of son are you.? This man gave everything he had for you and You, You stand there and do nothing,  Nothing.  If you are the Son of God, this would be a good way to prove it, that after you've healed so many others You're gonna crap out on this most important one of Your life?  Really?  You can't do anything right can You?  You're such a goody two-sandals yet You won;t lift a finger to ease the pain of Your very own father....

I think how hard it would be with his brothers and sisters.  Perhaps one of them said,"ok, you're supposed to be this holy guy and do all these miracles - and we need one right now,  I don't know what You are thinking..  You see him every day, see how much he is suffering and,"he spat out,"You watch and wait and DO EXACTLY NOTHING!  THIS IS OUR FATHER WE'RE TALKING ABOUT AND YOU DO NOTHING!!" and no one could understand.  Of course they couldn't.  He had to suffer their accusations and anger alone.  Hurting from not being allowed to heal His dad, hurting from the way His siblings hurt, the look in His mother's eyes when she looked at Him. The pain in Joseph's eyes, in each breath.  The silent, whispered into His-ears-alone taunts from the pit of hell.

The heart weeps. I think of Him bearing this alone.  Not understanding either but bound to obedience.  Obedience He learned **by the things He suffered**.  I will never hear that phrase again in a dismissive frame of mind.  My Savior suffered, not just on the cross.  Every relationship He had brought Him pain.

I was shocked to realize that.

The Father kept Him away from the death of Lazarus - perhaps the Father could not bear to put Jesus thru it a second time  where He would have to stand by and let someone else He loved die. Again.

and yes, He knew He would raise him from the dead, but in the meantime the stunned broken looks in Martha's eyes, Mary:s eyes, the accusing stares of acquaintances.  He must have felt so very very alone.  Judas was another one that wounded Him - and Peter and James and John - they saw Him transfigured and yet, when He really needed some human company and comfort at Gethsemane, they went to sleep.  Judas betrayed Him.  Perhaps He felt that one He could handle.  But Peter!  His prize pupil, His companion, His friend.  Even tho He knew it would happen, what a painful betrayal that must have been. I can't imagine the heartbroken look in Jesus's eyes as he turned to look at Peter that morning as the rooster crowed.  Amidst the deep pain, there was forgiveness.  Always forgiveness.  Jesus loves mercy the same way His 'Father loves mercy. And extends it to me, to you, every day.  His mercy is a deep down in the soul forgiveness, a fullness of mercy.

So when some paltry little wisp of suffering saunters into my life, and I am hurting and feeling alone, I pray He will remind me that He has walked the path He calls me to.  There will be nail prints in the footprints on that path.  And Lord, please, let me learn obedience by the things You choose for me to suffer. And let me suffer gladly, knowing You are moving in my soul, chiseling out some unwanted parts, sanding the parts You like until there are no more rough edges, and I fit in Your hand perfectly, a tool ready to be used.

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