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Relay stations & transformers



We’ve recently been preparing for a big surgery for my 11-month-old daughter. The doctor’s appointments and insurance logistics bring uncertainty accompanied by waves of stress, anxiety, grief, and anger that I thought had long subsided. 


This cocktail of emotions has been overwhelming and painful. I’ve found myself searching for ways to fix, control, and understand the pain. As if a long run, a well-chosen bible verse, or the right mindset could make it go away. 


Amid the exhaustion of that fruitless effort, I have felt God’s invitation to let him hold those feelings with me. I imagined wordlessly dropping a bunch of heavy, oversized bags in front of him. I imagined feeling my grief, anger, and anxiety without needing to explain or make sense of anything. “Here is all the baggage I’m carrying.” Being with God in that way, it feels like he is absorbing my pain as we sit in it together.


It’s the season of Lent, and I am reminded of the image of Jesus preparing for his crucifixion crying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). I am struck by the raw and honest way he comes to God with his pain, and the way I imagine God holding it with him.


Richard Rohr writes, “Picture Mary standing at the foot of the cross. One would expect her to take her role wailing or protesting, but she doesn’t! We must reflect on this deeply. Mary is in complete solidarity with the mystery of life and death. It’s as if she is saying, “There’s something deeper happening here. How can I absorb it just as Jesus is absorbing it, instead of returning it in kind?” Consider the analogy of energy circuits: Most of us are relay stations; only a minority are transformers—people who actually change the electrical charge that passes through us.”


Reflecting on God’s ability to hold, absorb, and transform my pain, he presents himself as a model for me to do the same for others. For example, my two year old has had some heavy bouts of sadness in the past couple weeks, which are difficult to watch. The sadness overtakes his little body so fully. The discomfort of this hits on my reflex to try to send his sadness away (“I know you’re sad, BUT it’s ok - daddy will be back soon!”). Instead, I feel Jesus’ example pulling me to sit with him longer in that sadness, holding it without dismissal, just as Jesus is doing for me.


My hope is to continue to learn the transforming power of pain and the intimacy it can bring with God and others.


-- Melanie

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