Living with Pain and the Messiness of Life

by Christine Sine

Yesterday I had a tooth extracted.  Pretty painless actually and the dental office did everything possible to make it even less painful.  I was offered general anaesthetic but opted for local – after all it was only a 20 minute procedure and generals can have complications.  That saved me $500.  I even refused the laughing gas – again it didn’t seem worth it just so that I could forget about the discomfort of having local injected.  I did take the vicadon I was given afterwards but then wished I hadn’t when the rest of the day receded into a fog.

Last night Tom was reading The Economist, becoming more and more depressed as he read about the impact of climate change and the devastation of deforestation.  A place to mourn and a place that it is easy to become overwhelmed.

Then I came across this great article on Claudio Oliver’s blog

Even without knowing why, a huge number of people around the world, especially youth, feel the inclination and desire to reclaim basic human activities like cooking, sewing, walking, biking, educating children, planting and building. Like an uncontrollable urge, – and even though the masses has been pasteurized toward dehumanization and simple activities of consumption – it has become common to see people trying to make bread, cycling and planting something in their gardens. A distant memory, a kind of dull ache is calling, and many are seeking and finding here and there – in books, free courses, in informal conversations – a way to redeem their humanity.  Read the entire post

So what is the connection between these stories.  Well for me they raised the question: Why do we want life to be painless, and convenient even when it costs us money, time and sometimes even our humanity and the health of our planet?

Part of the reason is that we have bought into a life that has very little to do with reality and even less to do with the life that God intends for us.  Our focus is on creating a comfortable place for ourselves and not on creating a place of comfort and abundance for all God’s creatures.

I am still reading Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Educating for Shalom. This is not a book that you can read quickly and then discard.  And today I came across a section that helped put all of this in perspective for me.  Wolterstorff talks about the fact that in order to move towards the ideal shalom community there are four ways basic places in which we need to engage:

  1. We are called to engage in the endeavor and struggle to bring shalom – modelling it where possible and being instruments of shalom where we see it lacking.  In words we are called to both act justly ourselves and work against injustice.
  2. We are called to pray for shalom recognizing that God’s reign of peace and justice is in many ways in God’s hands not ours.
  3. We are invited to savour, to enjoy, and to celebrate shalom wherever we see it breaking into our world.
  4. We are invited to mourn the shortfalls of shalom in our world.

When I disconnect from own pain and of the pain others suffer, when I live a life of convenience and comfort rather than engaging in the creative productivity God intends me to, I am disconnecting from God’s dream for shalom. My own pain makes me aware that others suffer far more than I will ever suffer.  And becoming aware of the growing movement towards making rather than consuming gives me hope.  Making something – a meal, a garden, a new sweater – are all ways to express the God given creativity that is central to who God has made us to be.  And it excites me because I see that God is very definitely at work transforming and renewing, giving us glimpses of that incredible shalom world we all long for.

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