My Psalms 142
The Great Search
It was a small parish. Less than fifty families were on the church rolls and many of those were senior citizens. For the twenty or so families with children, though, the parish provided opportunities to learn and grow in their faith. The youth group met once a week in the evening. Before the supper that was provided, they spent half an hour cleaning the church. Quickly they learned while it might seem like fun to put gum under the pews, scraping it off was another story! They came together for the communal supper which was provided by the heretofore-mentioned senior citizens. Young and old ate and communed, cleaning up together afterwards. A program of sorts followed and then the parish hall was cleaned, materials left out from the morning’s educational classes secured, and a final check before all left. The weekly exercise proved to develop a sense of ownership for the young people. They not only save the parish the cost of a custodian and janitorial service, they gained a responsibility towards their lives in faith.
Holidays were similarly celebrated with the young people taking part in many aspects. It was on such a holiday that the rector invited the teenagers to hide the eggs for the younger children to find. The four teens laughed their way around the church and then ventured outside. The sparse landscaping provided little foliage but soon they had hidden all the eggs and returned inside for a doughnut and their class. The seasons changed but the youngsters remained close and active in their faith. During the summer they often were found holding class at a nearby river. Sometimes accompanied by their rector, they would go out in a boat, swim and go tubing, water ski, and have a picnic on the sand bar. They discussed the wonders of nature and the rest of Creation and develop a deep sense of true friendship based not upon physical attraction but mutual knowledge and respect one for another.
Autumn brought about the annual hayride but all was not well within the small parish. An odor had developed and so a professional service was hired to thoroughly clean the premises. The young people felt left out but as the odor grew, dropped their appeal to clean. Christmas was approaching and still the smell continued. Plumbers came out to flush the sewer lines but the odor was still present. A sudden ice storm created havoc for the road in front of the parish and on a brisk wintery Saturday, the municipal water department was at the church. Some pipes under the road had frozen and burst and the water main needed to be turned off. It so happened that one of the teens was at the church that day helping prepare for a service when the rector was heard bellowing her name. Puzzled she turned and saw him motioning to her to come outside. Once there, the rector pointed to the water main in the ground near the parish all. “Guess what we found?” he asked. The teenage girl looked puzzled. “Go ahead”, he said, encouraging her forward. “You kids hid two eggs in the water main?” he asked. “That’s what we smelled all this time!” The girl looked apologetic and then smiled. “Guess it was a good place to hide them, after all. I told the guys it wasn’t but look, no one found them!”
We hide a great many things in life. Sometimes we hide eggs and then watch as others find them joyfully. Sometimes we hide money, hoping to save it for a rainy day. Then there are those deep crevices within our soul where we hide our pain.
Musician Jim Morrison wrote: ““People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”
No one imagined that four thousand and one hundred pages (US version) would become the talk of the world and yet, it was the universal pain portrayed by the title character that made J. K. Rowling a household name. People of all ages understood Harry’s emotions as described by Professor Dumbledore: “”You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
Oprah Winfrey has advised many to “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” It may sound impossible but it is a valuable life lesson and piece of advice. Pain is universal. We all experience it, no matter our age, ethnicity, education, stature, or status. It not only can teach us, it can unite us and bind us. Mostly, it reminds us we are human.
James Baldwin wrote: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
So often we spend our lives searching for that hidden egg of success, the golden egg that will solve all our problems and tell us all we need to know. In truth, we really need to search ourselves and attend to our own pain. C. S. Lewis explained it this way: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
That for which we search is often, like those eggs hidden at the small parish so long ago, right under our own noses. When we feel the pains of life, we need to learn from them and learn. Sophocles wrote: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.” The love which brought us into this world, a world created for us, will heal us if we allow it. Love searches our every pore, heals all our scars and still loves. When we search for the love and let it in, we will find the truth and pain will be no more.
My Psalm 142
The night is dark and seems forever.
My fears are as many as the seconds of my life.
I’m afraid to open my eyes; afraid of what I might see.
If I look into my soul, will there be anything there?
Pain has knitted a body bag of scars, encasing my heart.
Hope is a long forgotten memory and success an impossible goal.
But the teachings tell me I am worthy.
Worthy enough for one to preach and another to seek.
Many believe all creation, including my humble soul, to have worth.
Why do I feel so small?
Why do I feel so alone?
Is it really as simple as my heart seeking its purpose?
I turn to you, Great Spirit, for my peace.
Your love is a balm on my wounded soul.
I will believe in your goodness and thus my own.
Belief will be my garment to soothe my pain and erase my scars.
In life, I will find your presence. In living, I will find my own.