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A Meditation on the Purpose of Pain

by Laura Swindon-Ross  
9/08/2011 / Devotionals

"But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing."
Luke 9:11

I fell on a mountain, and broke some bones.

On this mountain, pain was my prison.

I swam into the sea of it, with my eyes shut and my knees bloodied and my arms open. Pain opens up a new universe within the haven of the human body; you see things differently, in a wholly undiluted way.

If desire fired the searing words of Solomon, if David sang a lifetime of his love, then in some small way reminiscent of their ardour, in the hours that I waited on that mountain, I stayed with God.

And you know something? I grew to love my pain.

Pain reduces us down to the notion of an indelible breed of dust; belonging to the earth, and yet to God. Pain sweeps everything in its path away, and makes the vision clean; it erodes in one exultant masterpiece, the debris of a cluttered, stagnant life. It makes the world naked, except for the only thing that matters: our relationship with God; on this, it shines its bold, purposive light. If pain burns, it is because it seeks to bend the will, it seeks to mend our errant, fractured sight and bring it back to God.

Pain is a parable. It teaches from the height of the urgent school-room, and leads us on a journey into the heart of love. Pain reduces us down to size. In one supple stroke, it takes away everything that is frivolous in the tumescent harbour of the mind; it teaches us how to focus. It reminds us that minutes are only the markers of the hours, the precious, running hours of a life; a gift of time from God. Pain remembers us, in the shadow of our loving God, and like some long-lost fate of fettered fame on the horizon, Pain arrives: to everyone, within the discourse of a life.

My friends, how may we judge the prize, if the task is only easy? If the prize is easily achieved, then its value is diminished, even though it be called The Prize. The gift in this life is not the gift of speed or prowess or dexterity, but of something so much more valuable, more subtle, less strident. The gift is in the giving of the life which we do not own, yet which we have on loan from the gracious creation of the universe, speaking through the Word of its creator God. The gift which lies in the bright room of the prize, is that we take this mortal substance of the living of our lives, and offer it back to God, in the quiet and holy revelation of the prize, where our hearts live, where our future lies. Pain is on the pathway to that prize. We earn our prize; we earn our pain: these things will not escape their value in the eyes of God.

I fell on a mountain and broke some bones. Help was a long time in coming; yet even as help was set in process and sent on its mending way, I had this conversation with God. It taught me that pain is the harbinger of lessons. Those who are beloved, those who are great, those who are lost, those who have wandered and fallen, those who are humbled and small, those who are called, those who are, in the night of their disquietude, still calling; these all will be visited by pain, and through this most adamant of teachers, we will hearken to attend God's great voice. The world is the school-room of all things; like the clay in the hands of the potter, we are precious, and yet, like all good things, we will take some moulding, some little time in the turning eloquence of God. My friend, when you fall upon that mountain, remember these lowly words. Look to your pain then, and learn from it.

2011 Laura Swindon-Ross.

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