There is a heaviness of the soul. The heaviness of words aching to escape. Aching to be released–to strike the air and do something. Make a difference. I get this feeling when I haven’t written for a while, and when I feel like the jumble of things inside my head needs to be sorted out but nothing seems to make much sense.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pain. Pain. How do we define it. How do we measure it? Is it possible to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10? Do we discount one person’s hurt and steal from them the right to grieve because we don’t think their situation measures up? Every person has an ache, and dictionary definitions don’t cut it. You can’t rate a broken heart on a number scale.
Ever since I was a little girl I have had a deep fascination with the Holocaust, the Shoah. I read so many biographies as well as historical fiction, and with almost morbid fascination I could hardly put them down. The stark pain that seeped out of the personal stories was, at times, almost unreal. Being here in Israel has been an interesting experience to say the least, and the other weekend I went to Yad Vashem–the Holocaust museum here in Jerusalem. I went twice and I’m still not done. Pain. Cold. Hard. Nearly incomprehensible. I’m currently reading the book Night by survivor Elie Wiesel who was only a boy when he was forced to live through things no human should be subject to. Pain that drove him to pen these haunting, heart-breaking words.
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
Raw gaping holes left in a soul meant to be alive. He decided there was no place for God in that gulf of grief. Would I have come to the same conclusion? Gaza. Iraq. Darfur. North Korea. Catastrophe. Where is God? What is the answer. I talked with a Jewish man about this question– a Jewish man who refused to accept a Messiah who would allow terrible things like the Holocaust to be done in His name without stopping it. What do you say? What do we do?
I sit at the corner of Ben Yehuda and Yaffa Street in Jerusalem or walk through Mehane Yehuda Market.
I sit on the steps of the bank, I listen to the street musicians, and I watch people live their lives. These people each have a story. Each one feels some degree of pain, and something has broken their heart. In my own soul I have felt the ache. But knowing what I know, reading the news and researching the past, I hear a voice whisper in my ear that I know nothing of pain, and that my hurts are insignificant. It can be so easy to judge people; so easy to tell them just to suck it up and “pull themselves together”…but sometimes you can’t just “pull yourself together”. Sometimes, for no really specific reason life just seems big and dark, and even if it may not seem significant to others, it hurts you. And it matters. Even if you haven’t lived through something like the Holocaust, that doesn’t mean that your pain doesn’t matter, because it does.
Sometimes I think we do try to rate peoples pain when we think about how to respond to situations. We want to show love in big ways and make a difference on a grand scale. After all, isn’t that what life is all about? Yes…but, while these people walking down Jaffa Street may look like they have it all together, there is so much we can’t see. When it comes right down to it, will we take the time to enter into the lives of the people right around us? What about the lady that walks into the café who just found out her husband is cheating on her, or the teenage girl in your Sunday School class who has shed countless tears because she feels like she “just doesn’t fit in”?
Love. Jesus love. What is the real measure? We all want to make a difference in a big way, but maybe the big way happens in countless little things. In the entering into peoples everyday lives and meeting them where they are at with the answer. The answer. The Holocaust, Darfur, losing your job, the wounding comment from someone you thought was a friend, worries about being able to pay the bills. You can’t measure pain, and the answer is the same for all of it. Love. Jesus love. It’s all we really have to give, and it’s all that we are called to give. And the amazing thing is that it is all we need.
Shalom, from Jerusalem…