There are times when everything seems right with the world. Ice cream tastes good and you wouldn't trade the warm sun on your face for all the riches in the world. I really cherish when moments like this come my way because I had a long period of darkness in my life and I really welcome the light. I welcome the love from an unexpected place or feeling unified with creation.
The problem seems to come, at least for me, when these feelings are nowhere to be found. What do you do or how do you think when everything you know, love, or value is suddenly gone? What is there left to bring hope?
Yesterday, I had two patients who tried to commit suicide. One patient came early on in the day and was not interested in connecting with me in any way. Well, I take that back – she did bite me and kick me a bit, but it wasn't the sort of connection I was hoping for. The second came close to the end of my shift when compassion is much more of an effort than a gift. I was bandaging up his arm after it was repaired and talking with him. I asked him a couple of carefully chosen questions and he answered. He had nothing to live for without chemicals, money, or his girlfriend. That was the sum of his existence and it had been taken away yesterday.
I got home to find a friend in my driveway. My heart was broken for his broken heart and there was nothing I could do but listen. It kills me when I can't offer more than a listening ear, but someone told me recently that the act of listening can be worship and so I worshiped with him last night. I heard of the pain that surges when someone you love so deeply and selflessly is ripped from your life. I worshiped as he told me about how much it hurt to know that there was nothing that he could do to bring her back – that he just had to sit in the pain and hope that, one day, it doesn't feel as blunt as it does right now.
Just before I went to bed last night, I was contacted by a friend of mine who was really struggling with hurting herself. She communicated the pain she was in and that cutting was a drug that made her feel alive. I felt helpless against the enormity her pain – like I couldn't do anything to take it away. If I could, I would swallow her pain and hurt in an instant so she could feel freedom, hope, and love. These are the things I wanted for her and couldn't figure out how to communicate them. I have big dreams for her freedom and the people she will reach once she is unbound. Last night all I could do is tell her I love her and that I'm here for her.
It's Easter morning and so many of the people I love are hurting. I woke up less than an hour ago, sat up in my bed, and began weeping for the intense pain that I felt yesterday. Suffering is vast, endless, and everywhere and this is the morning that we celebrate the rise of Christ. What a dichotomy. If this story is true, if Jesus did live, die, and rise again, then he is the common thread woven through each of these lives. If he is able to swallow our pain, take it on himself and suffer in our place, then knowing him intimately is the only relevant thing in all this.
And so we are ready for his return.