By Rev. Lee Anderson, Minister of Care
With all the hard stuff going on in today’s world, it is easy to become hardened ourselves. To be in touch with our own pain, let alone someone else’s, seems a monumental task. It feels better to just block things out, distract ourselves, or avoid uncomfortable situations. But that only feels better for a while. You can’t escape suffering in life, you can only ignore it until it evolves into something bigger, such as physical illness, addiction, depression, and so on.
The truth is, this is an ages-old issue. There never has been a period of time where the world did not get people down. For those of us living in the present, it can seem this is the worst things have ever been. However, those living in decades, centuries, and millennia past experienced the same feelings and beliefs about their own time. The message of Jesus is as relevant today as it was during his lifetime. We need God; the world is too much for most of us without God.
To avoid becoming hardened and live fully in a world that troubles us is a Christian calling. It requires allowing our hearts to remain softened toward ourselves and other people. This belief is also shared by Buddhist (and other religious) thought. Here, Pema Chodron, Buddhist monk and teacher, writes about this process:
“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Your world seems less solid, more roomy and spacious. The burden lightens. In the beginning it might feel like sadness or a shaky feeling, accompanied by a lot of fear, but your willingness to feel the fear, to make fear your companion, is growing. You’re willing to get to know yourself at this deep level. After a while this same feeling begins to turn into a longing to be fully human and to live in your world without having to shut down and close off when certain things come along. It begins to turn into a longing to be there for your friends when they’re in trouble, to be of real help to this poor, aching planet. Curiously enough, along with this longing and this sadness and this tenderness, there’s an immense sense of well-being, unconditional well-being, which doesn’t have anything to do with pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad, hope or fear, disgrace or fame. It’s something that simply comes to you when you feel that you can keep your heart open.”
Invite the living Christ into your heart as you work to keep it open. As Jesus touches our own wounds, we can be his presence in the world as we touch the wounds of others.