The question before me now is: can I use physical pain to feed the fire? Theoretically that should be an easy yes, but these theoretical constructs always look better when their practice is miles away, some interesting excrescence on the horizon, inevitable, but not very immediate.

I have a few pretty good owies right now, sufficient to keep me from sleeping. Everybody gets owies; it’s no big deal in itself, and certainly not something to get into an argument with God about. As I write this people are living, and dying, in agony, horror, and despair. And I lie in my comfy bed in my peaceful house in this sleepy little town in the mountains sleepless because I hurt.

Every morning I thank God for what the day holds, and for what the day before brought me. It seems logically inevitable that I need to be able to thank him for the pain as well as the goodies. I say, and I believe, that I live in the palm of His hand.

It doesn’t make the pain go away, or hurt less. It’s very engrossing when it comes and I don’t know if it’s possible to stand outside it and look at it objectively, see it as a large and obstreperous thing that is not me. My own way is to let go and drop into it, try to get to the centre. To pray for its removal at that point seems a distraction. While I’m in it there’s no subtext or marginalia. Just pain.

But afterwards, among the exhaustion from two nights with very little sleep, there’s an odd sense of work completed, of sprung-ness, and a nebulous, fluid kind of happiness that I think wouldn’t be there if I’d fought the pain.

The Old Catholics use to say we should offer up our pain for the holy souls in purgatory. I’m not sure about the ‘holy souls in purgatory’ part, but it does recontextualize pain as something we are doing, that has a positive value in itself.

The prayer then isn’t “Lord, take this moment away.” It’s “Lord, let this moment be of use. If each moment is a bead, and pain is a hot wire we need to insert through the heart of each moment, then let it be that one end of the string is in my hands, the other in Yours.”


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