PAIN AS A WAKE-UP CALL
(Monday, July 10)
As those of us on the Older Calendar prepare to celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul the day after tomorrow, I’m thinking about this thing that Christ said to St. Peter about his old age: “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. ” (Jn 21:18)
Our Lord was speaking about Peter’s death by crucifixion, “signifying by what death he would glorify God.” But it makes me think of our ageing-process in general, which for many of us involves being increasingly *bound* by physical ailments, which restrict our mobility and capacities to “walk where we wish.” When we let God into the picture of our physical pain(s), we can utilize the new, physical limitations brought to us by age to become more focused on our here and now, rather than on the “elsewhere-s” we may have sought in the past. We also become motivated to self-care and to seek medical help, which we may have neglected in our younger years. In faith, these circumstances can lead us to a new kind of growth, in mindfulness and a healthy self-love, for which we may previously have found no time.
Let’s note that emotional and spiritual pain can also be a wake-up call, for both young and old, to focus in the here and now on the cause of it, and to seek help from the Physician of physicians. Being *bound* by some spiritual malady, like resentments of others or ourselves, we can accept these as taps on the shoulder to identify and deal with them in humility, when they rear their ugly heads and cause us pain. By “in humility” I mean in God-reliance and not self-reliance. For example, if I feel irritation, frustration, disappointment, anger, or some other trouble in my heart, I can wallow in it or bury it or seek to escape it in some unhealthy manner, like abandoning the love, hope, and faith I need to foster in/for myself and others, and lash out instead, against the whole lot of us. That would be *my* way, which keeps me going around in circles rather than growing. But if I choose the way of God-reliance, which is not the way of circles but of the Cross, I take pause and look at the situation in His light. I embrace the gentle honesty that is humility, and let myself see the true source of my trouble, which is usually some sort of fear. When we overcome this fear through faith in the God who loves us and has faith and hope in us, as we are, we can “glorify God” by the death we die in this case, a death to the “sin” of going around in these pointless circles. Thank You, Lord, for breaking us out of these, by Your honorable, dignifying Cross.