This time my thoughts go to The Gift of Pain.
Along 礼品之路 ( Lǐpǐn zhī lù ) – the Way of the Gift – we discover that everything is Gift.
Because it is Gift, we can be grateful.
And we can relax.
Pain is included in everything.
You’ve felt it.
Not the pain of a broken arm or a hand seared by touching a frying pan you did not know was scorchingly hot.
That pain deep inside your being.
Of being abused with words & violence, which makes you cringe.
Of being told you’re not good enough.
To be husband or wife any longer.
To be friend.
That pain of being tossed aside.
Like a filthy rag which was used to wipe the floor & now is beyond getting clean.
We’ve all felt it.
Being the last one to be chosen for the team, not because you are wanted, but because you are there & you are the only one left, and for some stupid reason you must wait patiently to be chosen, and you will be chosen, but reluctantly and not by anyone who really wants to share anything with you.
In the school yard.
On the shelf of life.
For a ‘job’.
It overcomes us, at different times, in different ways. A sense of issolation. Aloneness. Adrift, without anchor.
Even my self.
It overcomes us, in the midst of professional or financial success.
It overcomes us while we are still young & as we get old.
I felt it, the deepest, when I was thirty-five.
The pain continued to haunt me for some years.
Looking back, I think, it would’ve been easier, then, if I already knew The Way of the Gift.
Standing here, I realize, it was instrumental in helping me find this Way, embrace it & live.
With greater ease.
Drenched in happiness.
I’d been a Church Minister in an Evangelical-Reformed Church for more than a decade.
I spent seven years and a little fortune on preparing for this, through studying.
I invested my being, for the first seventeen years of my adult life, into this.
At thirty-five, the father of three beautiful little children, I realized that what I imagined & what I had hoped to serve, was not what I was serving.
Not at all.
Instead of helping people to see God for who He is, and encouraging them to embrace the freedom He enables, I was feeding a destructive system, designed to control peoples’ lives, mine their resources & keep them dependant.
This wasn’t a sudden realization.
It was a conviction which grew in me, over time, as my faith changed, while honestly reading the Ancient Scriptures, meditating on these ideas, studying them & trying to comprehend a better way.
Reading & meditating on Holy Scriptures are dangerous, if your hope is to conserve what is.
There is something magical about it.
I’m not talking about a superficial social media-type of ‘grab the quote’ & ‘make it fit my ideas’ kind of reading.
Or the second-hand processed-meat kind of fast-food junk, served as Christian Theology to millions of unsuspecting people with the deep desire to know God.
I’m talking about the slow kind of reading & meditation in which you open your soul to be touched, instead of fingering & moulding what is read.
It changed me.
It changes me, every single day, as I read & think, consider & allow our Origin to open my very closed mind.
Allowing my rigid constructs to become at least a little more fluid.
I was convicted.
Like a convict.
Unable to deny the truth.
Inside my being a whisper, that I cannot continue doing what I was doing, without compromising my own being.
This is no easy thing to do.
Not if your whole life had been built on this one thing.
Not if you are married, have three beautiful children to care for, a bond, a car payment & all the trappings of medical aid & life insurances.
And so I left.
Unable to find a way to ‘minister’, without succumbing to the system.
Leaving wasn’t sudden either.
Nothing in this life happens in a single moment.
Don’t be fooled by the success-stories of Bransons & Gates.
You’re not just suddenly succesful one day.
Neither are you, suddenly, a failure one day.
Or a parent.
Or willingly choosing to walk away from everything you’ve done for twenty years, alongside any security you might have imagined you created for the care & sustenance of your family.
Life happens over time.
Our being is affected over time.
We wake up gradually.
We gather the storm.
Good or bad.
And then it breaks.
A sudden flood, no one expected, preceded by a thousand conversations, a hundred sermons, and many hours of quiet wrestling.
I left, what had been my life and career.
Not knowing what would exist on the other side of it, but confident that whenever we are true to that which has come alive inside of us, all will be well.
And it is.
Or all along, if only we knew that pain too is a gift.
First, however, I was hemorrhaging resources as if there would be no end to my little supply of carefully accumelated wealth.
While bleeding financially, unemployed for the first time since my fifteenth birthday, we were shunned.
But our families are dragged along into whatever we choose.
They suffer alongside us, without really having any choice in the matter.
We lost our families.
Sibblings & parents unable to comprehend what we were doing.
Hoping, if they shun us, I would come to my senses, repent & return.
But there is mostly no return, once you’ve chosen to be honest to your being.
Being an optimist I anticipated the financial strain of walking away from what had been my career for almost two decades, but I did not anticipate the shunning.
Not the shunning of our family.
Not the shunning of our friends.
This was the real pain.
Discovering how disposable we were to so many whom we thought loved us.
Suddenly we were in the desert.
Except for a very precious few who remained our friends, even if they did not understand what we chose or agree with what we believed.
They are the friends.
They real friends.
Seeing them, amidst the desperate pain we so innocently chose, is one of the things we receive through the Gift of Pain.
Do you see them?
Perhaps there is just one.
They are the gift.
Hang on to them.
They are the kind of people you want to share a lifetime with.
We found ways to stop the hemorrhaging.
Merely slowing the bleed.
Later plugging the hole.
We made new friends.
People we would not have met, had we not chosen honesty.
And over time, as we kept on thinking, as we continued to read & meditate, slowly getting up, something new formed inside of us.
A new belief.
A new way of making sense.
Not fed by pain or anger.
Fed by freedom.
Fed by the discovery that, truly, when we are true to our being, all is well.
I imagine it is possible to be consumed by pain.
To allow it to devour your soul.
I know, if you make people privy to the secrets of your pain, most often, they will believe, whatever you do or choose is motivated by that pain.
We were fortunate.
We received the Gift of Pain, not the destruction thereof.
We did not lose our faith, or our hope, or our being, although at times it felt like we had lost everything.
Instead, we became.
At least in our hearts, we believe, we became more.
Our understanding of life deeper.
Our privilege more abundant.
Not the cheap financial privilege so often flogged by Christianity, as the ‘favor’ of an one-dimensiol idol.
We are financially much poorer than we were eight years ago.
But to be privy to the riches of ‘a happy life’, lived in simplicity is much more precious than owning and hoarding & posessing.
This too is part of the Gift of Pain.
Perhaps we need this Gift of Pain if we really want the Gift of Happiness?
The pain a door.
Or maybe more like a corridor.
A long corridor, on the other side of which we find more of our selves.
The reality of our Origin’s presence more visible to our blinded eyes.
The Being of our Sourceror, who suggested ‘I am’, a little more in focus.
And life just a tad more exciting.
Filled with adventures & experiences we would never have known, had we fearfully stayed on this side of the corridor.
By no means am I suggesting that you should seek out this Gift.
It comes to us anyway.
But when it comes, see it for what it is.
A Gift, from the Gift, who is the Way.
In the pain, seek your Source, even if it is, like me, with cries of profanity.
(s)He is love.
(s)He understands beyond our limited existence.
(s)He is never offended.
Make time to step away & seek.
Read the Ancient Wisdom, not to find an instruction, but to see the One from Whom you come.
Take time to think.
Don’t be in a hurry.
And as far as you are able, be willing to be affected.
Not by the pain.
By the Gift.
The ‘happy life’ at-one-d with the Origin of your Being will infest your existence.