Today is Good Friday, a day of mourning when Christians commemorate Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. Holy Saturday is a day of vigil, spent in anticipation of Christ's resurrection. Easter Sunday is the most important Christian holiday, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Earlier this month I reflected on his death and resurrection as a metaphor for our own cycles of fallowness and fertility; how what is old must pass away in order for new life to emerge. Knowing it is easier said than done, today my thoughts turn toward the suffering we so often experience as we go through the process of death and rebirth within ourselves.
Author Gloria Karpinski writes, "We suffer more than necessary when we fail to acknowledge the destructive aspect of sacred cycles, their purposes, and the chaos they temporarily bring." How true it is! I create suffering in my denial of what is — in my belief that something is wrong; in my expectation that things should be other than the way they are.
I know the first noble truth of Buddhism can be summed up as something like, "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional." Pain is what happens externally and suffering is what we create internally. Let's just say I'm not enlightened yet. I needed to find a way to work with the is-ness of suffering.
I first heard the phrase "the awful grace" used by Ram Dass, when he spoke about about caring for his dying step-mother. He referred to a quote by Aeschylus, a poet of ancient Greece: "He who learns must suffer. Even in our sleep, pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
"Against our will, comes wisdom." There's so much humanity in those words! I say them again and again, knowing how hard I've tried - how hard we all try, mostly - to avoid suffering. So often I've thought to myself, If I'd known how hard it was going to be, I never would have done it (signed up, said yes, walked through the door, etc).
And yet, I'm always so glad I did.
I may not be enlightened, but I am optimistic. Often, learning comes through suffering. Wisdom comes through pain. It may be awful, but it's still grace.
Poetry and Musings of an Interfaith Minister on the Journey of a Lifetime.