The Upside of Pain

A young mother shared her tears with me about the hardship of her wailing child. She told me that she, her husband and their little boy had gone into the gentle forest to commune with the divine, to set up camp and be one with the elements and find solace in the quiet and power of the wild.

She had hoped to get spiritual.

Only things didn’t turn out as she had expected.

Well, that was her first mistake, I suppose. Expecting. Not an easy thing to avoid, but I digress.

She told me how her child, normally so agreeable, spent the entire 3 days raging and fighting with thrashing, screaming, inconsolable tantrums. Other campers nearby suffered with them, only to increase the madness of his defiance.

The child was not ill, but he was definitely expressing his childish form. They finally surrendered and returned home and the peaceful child they knew returned as well.

What is the lesson in this story? Never leave home to find spiritual sustenance? Well….no.

The lesson here is that my friend had an idea of how to gain a spiritual experience. She did not fully recognize that it is in our suffering that we gain the depths of spiritual growth.

If our lives were entirely filled with all that we needed, if food was plentiful, if homes were without flaw, if children behaved, we would want for nothing. And we would not wonder for a moment about the unseen world. We would forget that something beyond us exists. We would be blind and grossly arrogant and self-satisfied. We would not be grateful, nor strive, nor understand the suffering of others.

When things don’t go as we expected, or trials generate a suffering so great as to stop and notice, we are in a perfect storm of facing our humanity, our fragile and precious state.

Therefore, I remember this when my back aches, when I miss being held, when my milk goes sour. I remember the glory of my growth when my best friend betrayed me, when my cat was stolen, when I had to walk home for miles in my bare feet on a Sunday morning.

Our longing brings that most potent of riches, a recognition of how very sweet it is to come home and find a beloved child sleeping.

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