It Hurts. It's Supposed To.

photo by Wills Francis

photo by Wills Francis

Last week I stood in a crowded apartment building with 15 people I had only known for 3 months. This was my small group from a church I had found shortly after moving to Chicago. Two of our members, a wonderful newly-web couple, were moving to Denver the following day. I had grown particularly close with Ryan, and enjoyed a number of deep and meaningful conversations over our short time together in Chicago. We all laid hands on their shoulders and prayed that God would bless them and protect them in this new season of their lives.

As I stood there around these people that up until that point had a relatively short part in the play known as “my life”. I had not known them for years or decades like other friends, yet somehow felt a deep connection and love for this group of strangers. We prayed, we cried, you know the drill.

The astonishing thing was that in the midst of the teary prayers, I had something deep within me pulling the other way – the desire to be removed, distant, and coldly rational about the experience. In other words, I felt a tug to not feel anything. I can’t tell you where this feeling came from, but it beckoned me to remember that these people weren’t old friends of mine, that they were strangers. It told me that if I felt too much, this would hurt more.

Feeling can equate to pain. It is one of the only certainties about relationships. The more you feel, the more potential for pain and despair to occur. You can begin to be gun-shy. It is easy to abandon feeling - this tenderness drawing you close to those in you life. Abandoning it can be rationalized by creating a safe and controlled environment in which you may life. No feeling, no pain.

When we look to Jesus, He was not a man who restrained himself from feeling. He swung a whip at people in a marketplace. He wept when a friend died and when He was left alone on the last night of His life. He knew pain, more closely than we ever have. The deep connection between feeling and pain is a divine reminder of the power of love, as it is the fabric by which we understand and are woven into the story of how the love of God drove Him to do the unthinkable in Jesus.

When we try to stifle this feeling, we attempt to remove one of our deepest connections to God and each other. A life without feeling is a life of shallow relationships, leaving us in chosen isolation. While we may maintain the safety of guarding ourselves, we lose all vibrancy of a living and breathing friendship with give and take, love and despair, serving and hurting.

I know this tugging and attraction to disengage from feeling well. I have experienced enough pain during my life to begin using tactics to remove the chance that it could ever reach me again. But that is no way to live. The way to live lies in taking the risk and getting bruised up a few times, but knowing that we are cherished and beloved, willing to risk everything to know and be known by God and eachother.