Hurt & Faith

Pain hurts

Russell Lee, 1939

March 28

Whenever I get discouraged I look at real estate on the internet. Sometimes, it perks me up to dream.

I’ve been doing this since 2001 when we began planning our move from Southern California to Tacoma, Washington.

But it quickly became an escape. A few minutes of dreaming that easily turns into hours.

It’s the house of possibilities that always intrigues me — the worn out old house on a big lot (I used to dream of farming, but my garden failures have made me see reason on that). Broken windows and weed covered garden beds catch my eye.  I dream that my life would be so much better if I lived there. And I would be a better person.

This week, I haven’t just been looking. I’ve found the gem of all gems: a little 1920’s Craftsman on a half acre lot. I’ve driven by. I’ve walked around the property and dreamed. And now I’m researching renovation costs . . . and I am fairly certain my extreme renovation skills and knowledge are not up to par.

Yeah. It’s been a rough week.

* * * * *

Today is my Grandparents’ 69th wedding anniversary. Grandpa arrived home from a week in the hospital yesterday and now he has hospice care. Sixty-nine years of marriage.

Grandpa, Grandma, and mom

Some people don’t know their grandparents very well. Or didn’t get to. I have been blessed to have all of my grandparents, and even a great grandparent, well into adulthood. I can’t imagine what my life would have been without them.

I’ve learned so much from my grandparents. I could write a book.

We lived with my grandparents a few times going to and from the other side of the world. And in college, when my parents were still a world away, Grandpa and Grandma Dow’s home was my home.

My Grandpa is 90 now. And I can hear his voice from years ago in my head. His wonderful, hearty chuckle. The silly voice reserved for talking to Grandma when he wanted something. And his serious voice that made you feel like you should take notes.

I recall knowing more about insurance, real estate and investments than anyone in my class. I probably knew the words “location, location, location” before I could subtract.

I remember I thought my Grandparents were millionaires because my Grandpa was into stock. I told people I was related to Dow Chemical and that my Grandpa owned the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Hmm.

By the time I was finished with the 6thgrade, I knew every song from the 1950’s. Every song worth knowing, that is. They had one of those multi-record collections of greatest hits. And Grandpa and Grandma loved to listen to them.

As he’s gotten older, and great-grandchildren have taken our places at their dining room table and the lectures on money and career have been replaced by stories of the days gone by. Of a swim to Catalina Island with his brother. Of his father the professional baseball player (at our last visit, my boys read every one of the newspaper clippings he had, reliving games from eighty years ago). Of the Great Depression. Of the South Pacific. Of what he would do if he won the lottery. And of what a wonderful woman he was married to. Our visits were just never long enough.

* * * *

I’ve been browsing the internet looking for that house of possibilities that will fill the void I’m feeling tonight. But it doesn’t. And really it never has. It just numbs the hurt for a while.

It’s a bad habit. A thing I turn to instead of God to make me feel better and go back to often enough for a fix that it becomes an obsession.

The older I get, the less sure I am that there are harmless distractions. When I allow myself to brine in discontentment (which is the inevitable result of looking at things I don’t have/can’t have time after time), I always end up depressed.

But I stopped tonight. Because running to real estate doesn’t make me NOT think about my Grandpa. So I decided to feel instead of escape. To write out my feelings. And now I have a headache.

Besides, if he were looking with me, I’d like to think he’d point out the enormous power lines, the state of the homes around it, and the real cost of renovating such a house. I imagine his words of wisdom. And I stop dreaming.

* * * * *

March 29

I am grieving today, along with my family. For ourselves. And for my Grandma. Grandpa made it through their 69th  wedding anniversary and left this morning for heaven.

This loss creates a deeper longing in me. Not a desire to escape through unsatisfying pastimes or addictions, but for the sufferings of the world to have an end. To desire pain-free heaven more than any house on earth.

I’ve been reading C. S. Lewis this week. The Problem of Pain. He was a very smart man. Too smart for me a lot of the time. But I ran across this quote I’ve seen often:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world .”

Too many times, I would rather muffle the megaphone than listen to what He’s saying to me. It hurts to feel pain. I’d rather numb it. And I was really happy to read that old Clive felt the same way:

. . . All arguments in justification of suffering provoke bitter resentment against the author. You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. . . I will tell you; I am a great coward. . . when I think of pain — of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man’s heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased. . . if I knew any way of escape I would crawl through sewers to find it. But what is the good of telling you about my feelings? You know them already: they are the same as yours. I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made ‘perfect through suffering’ (Hebrews 2:10) is not incredible [unbelievable]. To prove it palatable is beyond my design. ”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

Hebrews 2:9 & 10

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

I Thessalonians 4:13-14,18