Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Problem of Pain – Chapter 3 – and other ramblings

Hi there!

C.S. Lewis kindly reminded me that there were other people suffering pain.  He reminded me of the bigger problems of this world.  Such as war!

I am not saying that my pain or your pain is diminished or overshadowed in any way by ‘bigger pain’, just that sometimes it is helpful for me to remember that I am not the centre of the universe.  Unlike my pain medication, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

I also found out on Friday that a close family friend had passed away. They took him to the hospital on Thursday and he passed away that night.  It was sudden.  And, sudden is hard to deal with for those left behind, particularly his widow.

Someone recently commented that it is easier for the family when the death process is slow – like cancer.  Easier for who did you say?  As hard as sudden is, I’m not sure I could wish anyone a slow, painful death.

Given the chronic condition of my back, I have recently put in an order for an aneurism – a quick and painless one – done – gone – standing in heaven with my fabulous new body, saying, “Hey, check me out! Look at me dance this jig!”  Or, “Hey, look at me everyone, I’m a pretzel!” At this point I picture St. Peter coming over to me, and saying, “Elizabeth, do you really want to meet God, Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, the Great I AM, in the shape of a pretzel?”  And, I say, “Maybe…”  But, I digress –

I think the two most lasting memories for me were seeing my grandfathers cry when my grandmother’s died.  My mom’s dad was lying in bed, my aunt kneeling beside the bed, holding his hand, while he wept.  It was heart breaking!  Then, my dad’s father – this time it was myself and his sister, who stood beside him, each holding onto one of his hands, while we looked at my grandmother in the casket, and he cried.

My grandfathers remind me that although my loss was great, and I was hurting, their loss seemed even larger.  Yes, I was grieving, but I kind of got this sense that their pain was much deeper than my own.

I know death is supposed to remind us of our own mortality – to not take our loved ones for granted, etc., etc.  And, as a Christian we have the hope that we will see our loved ones again, that they are waiting to greet us in heaven when we cross over (Or so we’re told…).

And, we do!  We do have hope.  But, it is still hard!

I feel like the one thing I am supposed to learn in my own physical pain is to take one day at a time.  Jesus’ words came to mind one morning:  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV).

It sounds like good solid advice.  I am trying it on – the trick is not to lose the lesson when the physical pain is gone!

Any comments or thoughts on pain?  Anyone reading?  Anyone?

 

Numinous

Hi!

C.S. Lewis has a way with words.  The problem for me is that he uses words that make me go, “Hmm?”

Take the “Numinous” for example.  What does it mean?  Webster’s on-line dictionary says this:

2.  filled with a sense of the presence of divinity :  holy
3.  appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense :  spiritual
So, what does this have to do with pain you ask?  Me too.
I think Lewis essentially argues that if we believe that God is good and loving, then there is a ‘problem of pain’.  After all, how can a divine God allow pain and suffering?  And, why does God allow pain and suffering?   Tough questions to answer – and I am not even sure there is an answer to give.  (Sorry!)
So, back to the “Numinous”.  Lewis says that in “all developed religion we find three strands or elements, and in Christianity one more.”  The first one is the “Numinous”.  As outlined above, the “Numinous” refers to the supernatural, there is a sense of divine presence, which as Lewis points out inspires “awe” and “fear” (The Complete C.S. Lewis,
p. 554).
Throughout history there seems to be some sense or fear of ghosts, spirits.  Even the Bible illustrates this point.  The disciples were in a boat, afraid they were going to die in the storm at sea.  But, then it gets worse for them, as Jesus is walking toward them on the water. “But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:26).
The second is that “all the human beings that history has heard of acknowledge some kind of morality” (p. 556)  Meaning, we all (or most of us would) acknowledge “Right” and “Wrong”.  And, most people regardless of their faith background would consider Hitler/his actions “Evil”.  So, there is even some acknowledged degree of “Good” and “Evil”.
The third is when the “Numinous Power is attributed to this morality” (p. 557).  Lewis reminds us of the Jewish people and how they “took the new step with perfect decision” (p. 557).  The “Law” is firmly established through Jewish testimony.  It is this “Numinous Power” who makes “Right” and “Wrong”, “Good” and “Evil” crystal clear.
The fourth strand, according to Lewis, is an “historical event” (p. 558).  “There was a man born among these Jews who claimed to be, or to be the son of, or to be ‘one with’, the Something which is at once the awful haunter of nature and the giver of the moral law.  The claim is so shocking – a paradox, and even a horror, which we may easily be lulled into taking too lightly – that only two views of this man are possible.  Either he was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else He was, and is, precisely what He said”
(p. 558).
Lewis does not name Jesus, but he doesn’t have to.  In Jesus, we come face to face with the “Numinous”.  After Jesus tells the fisherman to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, taking in so many fish that the boats began to sink, Luke adds, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).
Our gut reaction is to tell God to go away!!  But, if we keep moving forward, progressing through these four strands or elements, “and become Christians”, then we have the “‘problem’ of pain” (p.559).
I don’t know about you, but I think I need a pee-break.
Question(s):  Any thoughts so far?  Suggestions? Clarity needed?  Additional points to consider?

 

Loneliness

Hi there!

To begin where I last ended:  Lewis said, “I must add, too, that the only purpose of the book is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience, I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than knowledge, a little human sympathy more than courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all” (The Complete C.S. Lewis, p. 549).

And, now I have no idea where to begin.  I don’t want to sound like I am whining and complaining; nor do I want to sound ungrateful for the good friends I do have.  (A friend told me I could cry in front of her – how wonderful is that!!)

The problem of pain is that it leaves one alone quite a lot of the time.  In my case, I have to conserve energy.  So, I need to figure out what I can and cannot do. Work and the gym take up a lot of my energy.  The other times, I need to spend resting and rejuvenating.  I need to make time to write, and I need to make time for friends, churchy things, etc.

I am exhausted just looking at my list of things I need or want to do.

I was again reminded today that people will rarely do as we wish.  I was hoping a friend, who was popping by, would stay and visit, but she was having an introverted day.  I can relate, being an introvert, but  I just kind of wanted a friendly face to sit on my rocking chair, while I lay on the couch.  I even made cake.  (It’s a simple recipe…)

Lewis talked about courage, human sympathy and the love of God.  The Bible says to “Take courage”.  It’s an action.  You must grab onto courage, and not let go.  This feat sounds like it would take energy I don’t have.  The possibility of human sympathy drove away down the street, and so that leaves the love of God.

I know it sounds as though I am putting God last.  But, sometimes it’s just nice to have a real flesh and blood being around.  (Maybe I should reconsider getting a dog!)

It’s a rainy day.  So, I think it is time for me to crack open the Bible, and let God speak.  I really hope He makes me laugh!!!

For those of you reading who are in the same ‘lonely’ boat, but who do not have the Bible to turn to – well, for some of you, you do have God to talk to.  I know you talk to Him!   🙂

He is listening.  He is good.  He is love.  My hope today is that we would feel His love and grace over us.  (Of course, physical, emotional and spiritual  healing, where needed, would be nice too!!!)

For those who really don’t believe in God – I hope that today you will find comfort in the simple things that make you smile!!

Blessings.

Comment:  Please feel free to write to me if you are in need of encouragement, or if you would like to connect with a someone who gets where you are at.  You are not alone.  We are not alone.

 

The Problem of Pain – Part 2

Hi!

I have to correct myself.  I said the title of C.S. Lewis’ article was called “The Problem with Pain”, but it is actually called, “The Problem of Pain”.

My way of writing it shows just how different my brain is from C.S. Lewis’ brain. And, therein lies the problem.

My tackling C.S. Lewis is like Lewis’ struggle he himself faced in tackling a theological view of pain.  He felt ill equipped given how “little read” he was compared to a real theologian.

Here is why I love C.S. Lewis:

Lewis asked if the book could be written anonymously.  He was told, “No” by Mr. Ashley Sampson, as it was “inconsistent with the series; but Mr. Sampson pointed out that [Lewis] could write a preface explaining that [he] did not live up to [his] own principles!”

The preface gave Lewis the freedom he needed to be able to write confidently and excitedly.

It’s also freeing for me.  For one, if Lewis does not need to live up to his own “principles” then I don’t have to either; and, I can acknowledge my little academic knowledge, while diving into the world, the Oxford world, of Lewis in the 1940’s.

So, in the same way that Lewis tackled theology, I am tackling “one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day” (Back Cover of The Complete C.S. Lewis, Signature Classics, C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., 2002).

Here is some advice in Lewis’ own words:  “I must add, too, that the only purpose of the book is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience, I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than knowledge, a little human sympathy more than courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all” (The Complete C.S. Lewis, p. 549).

Amen!

Stay tuned!

The Problem with Pain

Hi there!

This is going to be a short blog.  Just giving you a heads up.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The Problem with Pain”.  I think I’m going to have to pull that one off of my bookshelf and read it.  I will report back as I read.

I am still in considerable pain – Week 4 – as I call it.

A couple posts ago, I talked about how pain makes me yearn for God more, and that new body He has promised me.

Reverend Atef, the Egyptian pastor, said that for those who have a “physical ailment” that “triumph would come later”.

For those of you out there, who also struggle with pain on a daily basis, you and I both have the same reaction, “Later?  We want the “triumph” now!”  “Later” is not a good option for us.

That said, I’m feeling a little bit tossed at sea lately.  (The Jumblies is a Victorian nonsense poem about “going to sea in a sieve.”  Not a very good way to go to sea, but the Jumblies did it anyway.)

I am sort of feeling like the Jumblies. The waves are battering against my sieve.  The water pouring in.  (At least in a sieve the water will come out of the bottom. – the silver lining…)  Anyway, they put themselves in a crockery pot to keep their little paper feet from melting.  So  this morning, I imagine myself in a crockery pot floating safely along.

Not really sure who is reading this blog, other than a few loyal friends (thank you!!), but if you are reading and are also in physical pain, I would love to hear from you.  I know it’s a difficult way to have to live.

Much love and blessings to all who are reading this (and to all who are not reading this).

Ellie