Letting Pain Out of its Cage

When’s the last time your church talked about abortion?

No, not to discuss the moral or legal sides, but to listen to someone who is struggling with a decision they made years ago, and to love them.

When’s the last time your church talked about what it means to be gay?

No, not to denounce the lifestyle, but to pause a moment and listen to someone hurt by the marginalization of a sibling who has come out as gay, and the impact it’s had on their family. Or to listen to someone in the LGBT community, to let them tell their story without judgment.

When’s the last time your church talked about doubt?

No, not as the opposite of faith. Not as a weakness, but as an experience all of us encounter at one time or another. Or live with.

Last Sunday at The Red, some of the folks who came out to the meeting shared their stories. And instead of judgment, or shocked stares, they were greeted with acceptance and encouragement. Some of them, for the first time, were able to talk about the circumstances in their life that bring the most pain. Henri Nouwen writes that:

Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means “to suffer with.” It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty … such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others.

Pain that goes unshared leads to death. Pain let out into the open can lead to healing.

When’s the last time your church or community of friends let pain or confusion out into the open?

7 Replies to “Letting Pain Out of its Cage”

  1. Great post as usual, but I think it’s important to emphasize that when people denounce “the lifestyle,” they’re attacking a straw person. There is no single “lifestyle” practiced by gay, lesbian, or bisexual people of any gender. If you took my bi “lifestyle” as your data point, for example, you would be forced to conclude that those goshdarn queers sure do grade a lot of freshman composition essays.

  2. Nice post, Shawn.

    Excellent point, Gwyn. There is no more a “lifestyle” for LGBT community any more than their is a “lifestyle” for hetero middle income women. We are Unique Individuals, every single one of us.

  3. I had the pleasure of being at this Red experience that shawn is discussing. I wept as I shared and as others shared secrets that were before hidden if for nothing other than self preservation. Ironically, our attempts at self preservation through limited disclosure often leads to the opposite…self destruction. Shawn, I agree with the sentiment that the release of hidden pain is the beginning of healing…as long as you find a loving group to share with.

  4. Ryan you are certainly right about need to find a loving group to share with. Often times, and from my own experience, especially in church, your “confession” of secrets is often times used to condemn and remove, than to allow for the much needed healing. Many times I’ve seen teens that have become pregnant removed from youth groups, those who struggle with sexual sins of say for instance sexual promiscuity, sexual addictions etc. They are removed from leadership, shunned or often times condemned when what people want and need is forgiveness, acceptance and healing from all the hurts. When we condemn, remove, shun and judge harshly we are adding to more that the individual will need to heal. Everyone is accountable for what they do. But what people have done to them is usually the hardest healing hurdle. Great post Shawn.

  5. What is unique about the Christian God and emotional pain is that the pain has somewhere to go – not just out into the open, to a person, or a group, good as that is, but into the cross, into the Christ of the cross. The Gospel makes a provision for the processing of emotional pain through a suffering savior –
    When you see Jesus dying on the cross to receive your pain you realize that your pain has a destination – it has a place to go, does not need to be held on to because there is someone who knows what it is, what it feels like, and suffered the ultimate pain of the cross so that we can experience freedom.

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