The Problem of Pain
Just like the Games of yesteryear, London 2012 has thrown up its own share of drama and upsets over the course of two weeks of competition. Along with it, came the pain and the tears.
Growing up in the 70’s, a time when we were probably still unsullied, these three guys below provided me and my brothers with a barrel load of laughs every time they came on. “Happy hurts” – is the word that comes to me now, where pinching, banging and gouging on one another like they did was excruciatingly funny – until we started practicing on each other – which was not funny at all, especially when father found out what we’d been up to!
(Picture source: http://www.heritagesquare.org)
As time went on and innocence was lost, other kinds of hurts began to emerge. The personal, family, communal and global types; pains that hit too close to home; that are self inflicted, or done by others, to others and that gnaw at the back of my mind, thoughts and within my being.
Last month, a 60 something wife who had had her leg amputated below the knee in a hit and run accident poured out the pain she was going through seeing her husband suffer from a chronic illness;
I heard how another who at 75, was trying to make her life meaningful by reaching out in small ways to others, even though she herself was riddled by health problems;
Yesterday, thirty something Intan, who lives nearby, came round to thank us for some donations that had been collected for her. She’s suffering from cancer, has 4 children growing up, the youngest being just 1 year old. Yet, in spite of her obvious pain and seriousness of the illness, she was putting on a brave front and trying to be cheerful.
Pain – all around me, within me, outside of me. At the Olympics, in school, at homes, workplaces, churches, on the byways and highways, in the country, and in the world. Pain – anywhere and everywhere.
Yet – I am constantly being bombarded on how to avoid it. It’s as if by avoiding it, I can be happy, contented and secure. How can I, possibly? Because everything I have come to know points in the opposite.
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C. S. Lewis.
In a macabre way maybe – I think we need pain – so as to remain human. Remove pain and we remove our capacity to love. Remove our capacity to love, and what becomes of us??
In a sense, like the Olympians and the women in the story above, all of us are also running a race. The race of our lives. Many of us may be running like South Africa’s blade runner – Oscar Pistorius, below:
handicapped, hurt and seemingly unwanted and unneeded.
Yet, the athletes in London are ample proof there is no gain if there is no pain. By persevering and going through the pain barrier they proved worthy champions – hence, even when they lost, dropped the barbells and crept in last – they were winners, and deserving of the standing ovations the crowds at the stadiums accorded them.
The women who wept tears for another and continued reaching out from the pain that was tormenting their own selves are signposts too as to how to live our lives – by remaining true to the tasks at hand and responding as best as they could with what they had -with an abundance of love, as the ancient Greek writer Sophocles reminds us:
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”
The apostle, Paul seems to have been a fan of the Olympics too! In many of his writings, he alludes to life as to a race that had been run. Reading his words and in between the lines, he paints a vivid picture of the urgency of the race that he urges his readers to run.
Unlike the Olympics though, this is a race where no medals will be handed out at the tape – rather only a deep fulfillment that we have indeed “…fought the good fight, … finished the race… and kept the faith” – c.f. 2 Timothy 4:7 .