I hurt. Recently we completed a painful part of the justice system. The trial of our son. As I’ve shared, we’ve been here before…so many times. We’ve got just a few months left of his time at the local jail before he gets transferred to the prison system. Jail and prison are very very different. It’s been too painfully real already, but now it gets even realer. More painful. More permanent.
At the church I served for 25 years we used to have a small group called MOOs. The MOO stood for Mothers of Offenders. This was a safe place for us moms to share pain that carries shame with it. But in that group we could share it honestly. It also meant that pain—personal pain, the other’s pain, and carrying each other’s pain—was a part of this group every time. Our tagline was “Glad to see you…but sorry you are here.” You had to be vulnerable to be there. This was a meeting you could not hide in. This was a meeting where you were known because your child screwed up so much that he/she was in jail or prison. This was a safe place to talk about how that feels because so few parents want to share that vulnerability that their beloved is such a screw up. There is also shame attached. What did I do wrong? Very often the parent is not to be blamed. The child is fully capable of screwing up outside of the law without it being a parent’s fault. This meeting was the place where you could hear that truth—again and again and again. We needed to hear it again and again and again. Every meeting was painful but we looked forward to them. There were times we would laugh too. We would laugh long and hard because there was so much pain shared. Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy.
Cancer took the leader of the MOOs. Cancer always causes pain. I hurt. I need my MOO leader and cancer got her. Cancer always causes pain.
Pain is not a mistake to fix. We should not be afraid of pain. We should be afraid of our fear of pain.
A recovering alcoholic said this in an interview about his alcoholism, “Crisis exposes pain points that have long been ignored. And to state the obvious, pain hurts. Like any other animal, humans go to great lengths to avoid pain, and the anesthetics of our day—alcohol, prescription pills, sex, materialism, and entertainment—are readily available and quite effective. Is it any wonder that good and well-meaning Christians succumb to addiction in seasons of pain? After all, Christians are human too.” –Seth Haines, Leadership Journal, November 11, 2015
Pain is not a mistake to fix. Pain does not need to be numbed. And somehow this discomfort can be purposeful.
Captain Kirk stumbled upon this great truth concerning pain. Yes, Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. Actually, it wasn’t Captain Kirk. It was the writers. But if you like Star Trek like I do, you like to think it was him.
This truth came out in the fifth of the Star Trek motion pictures. Sybok was a renegade Vulcan and half-brother to Spock. He would gain his following by releasing people of the pain of their pasts. In this wonderful scene, Sybok had already gained the loyalty of the crew. Even Dr. McCoy had been convinced to follow. An attempt was made on Spock. Of course being a true Vulcan, Spock was unmoved. Next was Captain Kirk and this great truth. In reference to having his pain taken away, Kirk said to Sybok,
“Do what? (Regret that) I’ve made the wrong choices in my life. I turned left when I should have turned right. I know what my weaknesses are. I don’t need Sybok to take me on a tour of them…You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They are the things we carry with us. The things that make us who we are. We lose them we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away. I need my pain.“
I need my pain. At first take I want to scream, “No I don’t need this pain of my son being in prison again!” As much as I hurt I still know that there is beauty coming out of this pain. At a minimum I know my son is safe though he is far away from me. Even though I don’t get to make Christmas and birthday memories with him for quite some time. All moms need to know that their sons are safe. I am growing more tender in my rawness. I know enough to not numb myself but to carry on through. God will redeem every bit of this mess. God will redeem my son’s life now that he is in prison. Beauty will still come out of my beloved son’s life.
(I need to repeat this stuff to myself all the time.)
Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “God does not waste his children’s pain.” I know the theology to back up that truth. But right now I don’t need the theology. I need the comfort. I seek the beauty. And it sure is beautiful hanging on to this truth that God does not waste his children’s pain.
To give me a giggle during this painful time, I tried imagining Bishop Tutu and James T. Kirk meeting together aboard the Starship Enterprise. Oh my.