Category: pain

Afflictions Eclipsed by Glory

Most of you (assuming there are enough people who read this blog to split them into a majority and minority) know that I have two little boys who will be starting preschool over the next couple years. I don’t want to talk about what happened Friday. I don’t want to think about it.  I don’t even want to know that it happened, so I sure as heck don’t want to write a blog post about it.
Right now there’s nothing I want more than to curl up with one of the comic books my friend lent me and get lost in a nice, brightly-colored alien war where little kids don’t get shot to death for no reason.
In the last post on this blog I told you writers can’t ignore or hide from the disturbing, painful, sickening things that happen in our world. The coward in me wishes I hadn’t told you that because here are the facts: Babies are dead. Parents are dead. People across the country are sick, hurt, angry, and sad. We don’t know what to do with this.
Friday night, my sister-in-law said, “I told [my son] that the world isn’t going to end this month, but now I don’t know. I don’t see why God wouldn’t just swoop down and take us all out.” A lot of my friends and family have been saying how much they wish the Mayans had been right about the date of the apocalypse. I’ve been saying it, too. Can you imagine what a relief it would be to be done with this whole mess? Unfortunately, the end of the world isn’t coming on Mayan Apocalypse Day.
“[God] should kill us all with an [assault rifle],” my sister-in-law said. “That would be appropriate, don’t you think?” 
What my sister-in-law understands that some people don’t is that we’re all humans. If one of us massacres a hundred others, we all share the blame. I know it goes against the grain to admit that. Whenever some great injustice or tragedy happens, our first instinct is to separate ourselves from the perpetrator. To say, “This gunman was mentally ill. That dictator was power-hungry and sadistic. That group was part of a sect that practices a radical form of our religion mutated to fit their own beliefs. He/she/they are not like me.”
The truth is that gunman, that dictator, and that group are humans just like we are. We have the capacity in our hearts to as much harm as they did. You can swear you don’t or split this into a hundred different semantic arguments, but evil is in you the same as it is in me. It may come out in different forms, but none of it is helping make this world a better place.
The good news is there’s something we can do. In the previous post on this blog, I told you that I didn’t know how to respond to tragedy or even the pain of living every day. You have to feel it, you have to face it, and you can’t hide from it if you want to be a writer. But now I understand that you can have peace in spite of it.
  
One of my favorite songs says, “If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” To me, that’s the real relief.
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That Darn Moth Again

My friend’s husband was shot to death by police last week in a “misunderstanding” that seems more and more senseless as more of the truth comes to light. The next day a friend from high school hung himself.

Before I found out, I was working on a post about how a Christian should respond to the engagements and marriages of their LGBTQ friends. Maybe I’ll finish writing that sometime, but it seems so small now. Even things like who won the election seem small. Does it really matter who runs the free world when stuff like this can still happen?

It’s true that tragedy has always existed, but we’ve never lived in a world where it’s so easy to ignore. “No one wants to take the time to feel anymore. #fact” someone said on Twitter. They were right. Millions of people on the other side of the globe could be wiped out today, and if we don’t want to hear about it, we can change the channel, webpage, or podcast. If it’s our neighbor, relative, or friend who’s been hurt or killed, we can drown the pain out with music, books, screens, drugs, sex, or any combination. As long as there’s a distraction, we don’t have to feel the pain.

The thing most people don’t want to understand is that pain doesn’t just come with death or tragedy. Every day hurts if you face it head-on. That’s why when I run out of excuses and dead friends and personal tragedies, I’m still drinking. I don’t want to think about how hard it is to live every single day.

This morning I caught myself wishing I could go back to Oak’s last birthday party. It was fun, my whole family was there, and the only responsibility I had was to make sure everybody got a piece of cake. Nothing bad ever happens on those kind of nights.

Get ready. This is where I do that thing I hate of making distinctions between the different kinds of people who write, specifically between someone who writes books and a writer.

Someone who writes books lives in those memories where everything was fine and nothing hurt. Their stories are distractions from real life and they keep you from having to think about why it hurt so much in the first place. I usually think about this in relation to romances, but it holds true for legal thrillers, horror, pretty much any genre. A romance novelist can have six or eight series of books going at the same time. By the end of their career, they can have written a hundred or two hundred or a thousand books.

Writers…I don’t think we can do that. This is where the requisite Holy the Firm reference comes in. A writer’s responsibility is to be the moth, to fly into the candle, and to become the wick. Illuminate all of the pain and unfairness and tragedy, and by contrast, the beautiful things hidden in the darkness. “Which of you want to give your lives and be writers?” Dillard asked her class, trying to make them understand everything it would cost. Hobbies. Distraction. Naivety. Ignorance. Neutrality. Complacency. That feeling of content well-being. Peace. Rest.

This is a long and meandering post and I apologize for that. It’s not going to circle around at the last second and answer the questions raised at the beginning. I’m sorry. I have no idea of the right way to face tragedy or to handle the pain of everyday life. I do know that you can’t ignore it for your own peace of mind. The candle can only hold back the darkness for as long as the wick burns and the wick can only burn for as long as it’s on fire.