My gravestone should read something like this, "She always knew what to say." It's funny, I never thought it would bother me always to know what to say to people when they're sad or upset or annoyed. Isn't that the sort of person we all want to be? Not me, not anymore. Always knowing how to respond is really just a facade, one that coats the fact that I do not wish to feel too deeply, I do not wish to be affected too much by something like love. Therefore, I do not allow myself to be at a loss.
Watching the movie, Shadowlands, last night caused me to walk through a door -- metaphorically speaking -- through which I do not think I can ever return. Or perhaps I can. The ability of the human soul to return to its prideful ways is unsurpassed. One can be broken completely, yet still, the pride will knock again, asking to become a part of me once more. And in my shallow, foolish ways, I will take it back, almost before it is gone.
Yet for a few hours my pride was broken and erased. For a few hours I existed as nothing but myself. Myself with no facade. While watching the movie, all the suffering I have ever known mixed with my sorrow for the trials of the characters themselves. The question that C.S. Lewis asks in Shadowlands, "Why do we suffer?" kept coming back to me afterwards. I'm not going to say that I know the answer to this question, because I do not. I know the textbook answer: suffering makes us understand happiness; suffering refines us like gold. But those words seem hollow in the face of real suffering.
My aunt passed away about two years ago. She died of cancer after an 18 month battle. As she was my favoriate aunt ever, that was a very sad time. Now, she was a Christian and I knew where she went after death. But somehow, that did not matter at the time. I remember going in to work the day after the funeral. There was this customer whom I had never got along with and she, naturally, chose that day to come in to get some photos copied. As I was helping her copy the photos she started crying. She then informed me that the photos were pictures of her brother who had just died of cancer. Actually, the cancer had been cured, he died from the effects of chemo. She told me that he was a Christian, so he had gone to heaven. I told her about my aunt, and I started crying too. We both said the same thing then, "I know he/she went to heaven and is happy and well now, but why couldn't he/she be with us a little longer and be happy here?" Yeah, that's suffering. The stark reality that you have lost what you are terrified to lose, even though you have always known you would lose it. We simply rephrased the question in our response, "Why do we suffer?"
We suffer because we love, because we care, because we do feel deeply for others. To know the reason behind the suffering is to have a peace that goes beyond words. A peace that exists in such a way that you cannot explain it. However, it is expressed in the tears we let fall for both ourselves and the others we meet who suffer. It is easy to go through life, suffering its trials without understanding and with a desire simply to avoid all suffering. Suffering is bad, or so they say. Yet suffering makes us who we are. For Christians, suffering transforms us into the perfect image of God that we were always meant to be. No, the words that could tell you why we suffer will not come from me, because I do not know the answer to that question in words. I know it in suffering alone, and in feeling the grief that suffering leaves behind, and in leaving that grief behind as I move on to run the race that God prepared me to run.