Being present to suffering as a spiritual exercise; day 10 of Ramadan

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Earlier this week I got a text from one of my best friends and he hit me with some hard news; his mother, whose health has already been up and down, had unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse and as a result she was in the hospital. He filled me in on the details and he and I worked out a time for me to visit her in the hospital.
To be honest, I don’t like visiting hospitals because my associations with hospitals have more to do with hurting than healing. I have spent a good deal of time going to and from hospitals and every time I go I have a sense of foreboding. Yet my bro is my bro, I love him and out of love and not moral obligation I went to visit his mom in the hospital with him and his wife.

When we got to her room she happened to be up and happy to see those she knew. Her oxygen machine was running pretty strong, and unfortunately it was causing her throat to ache and it felt internally scratchy to her. We all talked with her and she with us, and it was encouraging to see her so upbeat and talkative despite her suffering a bit more than usual.
One thing I noticed while spending time with my bro and his wife and his mom (and even me) is that we were all present, we were all there, and were all mindful of the pink elephant called suffering that was in the room.

It’s rather commonplace to ignore the suffering of others and to a certain extent our own. We’re constantly bombarded with commercialism that tries to take us from “here” to “there”, and usually the “there” is a place without suffering, without hardships, without need to be present to anything that might cause us distress.
And yet the common denominator across all of humanity unto all people is that we all suffer; granted suffering isn’t a one size fits all, sometimes it’s want of love and sometimes it’s for food for our tables and those of our loved ones. Still it is inevitable to suffer and sometimes when we’re faced with it we want nothing to do with it, or we want to face it alone, and yet there are times we want to be in the presence of our loved ones who will help us through the suffering.

That’s why I consider being present with suffering to be a spiritual exercise; it doesn’t take us away from the suffering to a “there” that’s better, but puts us in the thick of it, the here and now of what’s going on. When we do this we’re given a chance to do something, and sometimes that action of doing brings us to a place of being more in touch with our humanity.

Plus if we’re able to be present with our pain in the presence of others, the weight of it all can be carried. I know for a fact that my bro and his wife and his mom and I carried that weight together in community because we love each other and want what’s best for each other, and in this instance it was so that my friend’s mom didn’t have to suffer alone.

If you’re able to find true community you will find people who will stand with you in the good times and sit with you when you suffer, and if you’re able to be a recipient of that you also can also reciprocate that with others.
I know that in my life it has taken a long time to find such a community, but I love it and I do what I can to be a part of it as much as I can! I am grateful and thankful to God to be a part of a tribe to call my own, and I will be a part of it for as long as I am in the area.

So with all that being said, being present to suffering were my keywords on this 10th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for being ever present in our suffering. You who don’t watch idly by as we hurt, but cry and weep and comfort and love us. May we in return be your hands and feet and eyes and ears to those who hurt as well.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

The Hurting Church

Recently it has crossed my radar of the group The Hurting Church on Facebook. For many of us including myself, we have been hurt by the church once or multiple times, and stumbling across this group has been a breath of fresh air and a cold drink of water on a hot summer’s day. Their about section sums them up nicely;

Want to share you personal story?
Public or Anonymous.
Email The Hurting Church.
Description

The church at its best is an amazing, breathing, living part of it’s community. It has the power to do many wonderful things. The church at its worst is exactly the opposite.

It’s easy to make a page where everyone focuses on the hurt and just leaves it at that.

We want this to be a page that gives voice to the hurt but also celebrates the redemption that is often experienced during and after the hurt.

For those who have been hurt by the church:

We understand. We’ve been there, we have felt the loss, aftershock, and disconnect. You may feel like you are alone and without community. But, you are not. Through stories that are shared on here it is our hope that you find some sense of healing, community, and resolve.

For those who are hurting for the church:

We get it. We hurt for the church too! So many times the church can find itself “stuck” and “out of touch” with the world around it. It becomes isolated in an effort to maintain it’s purity. Because of that though, it remains stagnant and in steady decline. It can also be a machine that churns out mindless followers instead of developing free thinkers who bring change and progress. Our hope is that through discussions, questions, and stories we can see the church move in healthy ways towards becoming an integral part of its local community with no regards to creed, faith, gender, or sexual orientation.

Ultimately we pursue healing and balance in both arenas.

We pursue free thinking.

We pursue common good.

We pursue finding beauty and God in all places and in all people.

-THC

Have questions or concerns?

Please email: mail@thehurtingchurch.com to contact the manager, content creator, or any admin.

We would love to hear from you!

Having read all of this, I decided I would submit one way I’ve been hurt by the church in the form of spiritual abuse. They gladly read it over and posted it here. Since I put myself out there for their audience, I decided to contact the founder and pick his brain on some things. Our conversation went like this (my questions in bold, the answer isn’t).

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1. What is the purpose of THC? The main purpose is to be an outlet for those who have been hurt by the church and those hurting for the church. I want it to be a source of encouragement, challenge, and personal growth. I want people to understand that their story holds weight and the very act of sharing both the pain and redemption is something that will bring freedom. Not only for them, but others who hear it. Ultimately my hope is that people experience healing, balance, and beauty by being a part of our community.

2. What’s your tie-in to THC? I am the originator of THC. It was something that had been on my heart and in my mind to do for quite a while. I personally wanted an outlet where I could connect with other people who have gone down the same path as me. I was talking to a good friend of mine one day about my desire to do something like this. He not only encouraged me to actually do it, but also aided in helping everything look good in the process. He is someone I trust and someone who also has a lot of good ideas.

3. How have you been hurt by the church? I’ve been hurt by individuals in the church. More specifically those representing the church. I’ve been hurt to the point that everything I thought I knew and understood about God and the church went under the microscope. It was for the better though… I now have a deeper, more genuine view of who God is.

4. Have you hurt others in a Christian way that was unChristlike? Unfortunately yes.

5. How have you repaired the damage done? By going back to these people, apologizing, asking them for their forgiveness, owning my shit, and most importantly understanding that I am a person on a journey (as we all are)… continually learning, growing, and evolving.

6. What can Christians do to be more Christlike and less like Christians? Hang out with “sinners” 😉 Just teasing… but not really. I think the real question should be “What can we do as humans, labels aside, to love one another better?”

7. Should Christians concern themselves with political matters? whether party alignment-wise, or even playing a part in taking on some role in politics. Yes… but not to represent their version of God… but rather represent the attributes of God: Love, Social Justice, Peace, Grace, Beauty, Equality, and Freedom

8. When did you realize your views of God were too small and too comfortable and too compartmentalized? When the shit hit the fan. When the carpet was pulled out from underneath me. When it was just me and God. All of a sudden He became real. Again, everything went under the microscope. Everything I thought I knew and understood… changed. All of a sudden He became a lot bigger in all kinds of ways.

9. Every Christian, whether they want to admit it or not, cherry picks from the Bible. What do you cherry pick, what do you leave out? I hate to admit it, but, I don’t really read the bible all that much. It does sadden me though when people use the bible to support their own agendas. If and when I do cherry pick, and I try my best not to, it’s usually in an effort to win out an argument with someone who is confusing “Loving their neighbor” with being the judge and jury.

10. What is the teleological/end goal of The Hurting Church? the end goal is Healing and Progress. Our logo, that my wonderful friend created, is purposely in the Shape of a church with a capital H! The H stands for healing. We find healing in sharing our stories, seeing the redemption, and broadening our scopes to finding God and seeing beauty in places we may not have looked before.

11. Favorite pizza & beer combo? Easiest question yet! Lou Malnatis Pizza and any goose island beer.

***

So there you have my brief q&a with the folks of The Hurting Church, to God be the glory in their ministry and here’s the goals and end goal they have.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael