The Pain That Comes with Healing

pexels-photo-167699I received a flu shot last week, which means I stood in a line and paid money to get poked with a needle. On the surface, this seems ridiculous. But it was a voluntary choice to experience momentary pain in hopes of a healthy future.

As I waited in line, a nearby TV was running the 24 hour news cycle; a series of hot takes of controversies over #takeaknee, white supremacist rallies, the political gridlock in Congress, and the like. The tension and strife pervades to the point of feeling overwhelming: how can we be about the work of healing amid such division and brokenness?

I don’t have all the answers, but I find the wisdom of Thomas Merton powerful and helpful. In his classic work, New Seeds of Contemplation, he refers to the followers of Christ as “A Body of Broken Bones.” Much like Christ’s crucifixion, which broke his body, we suffer our own division and separation from one another.

The New Testament refers to us as the Body of Christ (I Cor 12), and if you look around, you truly see a body of broken bones. Merton writes:

“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.” (p. 72).
The glass-half-empty-take? Life is painful no matter what.

The glass half full Good-News-of-the-Gospel-take? We are free to choose love or hate. Both paths involve pain, but only one path is the pain that leads toward healing.

To love is to see the healing role that pain can play: like the resetting of a broken bone, like the poke of a needle providing a flu shot, like the cleaning of a scrape or cut, there’s a vision of what could be . . . what must be. This provides the grit to endure the pain for a higher purpose.

This is the essence of a faithful life . . . not merely a system of beliefs, but the recognition and participation that Christ living in us unites us to one another. Like the resetting of bones, the love of Christ painfully, but healing-ly brings us back together. Sometimes it’s excruciating. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. Sometimes it’s frightening.

But it’s a better pain than the pain of avoidance. We must engage and lean into the healing work.

How can you lean into the healing work this week?
A body of broken bones is who we are. But it’s not who we are called to be.

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