by Gregory Hermann
“The pattern of transformation involves at least some measure of suffering.”
Fr. Richard Rohr
Living life in a certain way.
I find it easy to observe the natural changes in plant life or animal life. Observing the metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly, of birds as they hatch their eggs, of seeds as they burst through the earth. The birth of our own children. These physical forms of transformation have a common cycle: the tiniest of seed is planted in a fertile environment. Then, with nurturing, they outgrow their space and there is the transformation: the bursting forth from a space which can no longer contain that which is growing. I can imagine the butterfly emerging from a cocoon or a seedling bursting through the earth – is their pain and suffering? I was present during the birth of our children and witnessed the suffering of my wife as our children escaped their tiny home.
Emotionally and spiritually, I am coming to appreciate this same cycle in my own life. I spend considerable energy as I learn, as I experience the many stages, phases, trials and challenges of life. I work hard to contain, nurture and control these experiences. I hold them in my space as I establish a level of safety, comfort, control (oops, there is that 'c' word again). As the cycle of the life experience grows full circle, there is a moment of transformative birth. In this birthing process, space becomes too confining. There must be a release of barriers beyond the limits of the container. There comes a moment of decision – let go and suffer or hold on and suffer.
As I let go and suffer, the result is an ultimate relief of the pain. There are usually lingering reminders of the physical muscles that have been stretched or scarred, and/or the emotion limits that seemed to have been violated. Yet, the process of letting go is always with you, the body of my God. Your experience, strength and hope are available to cradle my suffering, to massage my wounds, and to instill hope.
When I hold on, I usually spend extreme energies to keep everything within the limits of my space while the vane efforts to control lie to my version of reality. The ultimate birthing process is often preceded by a near death experience. Now the suffering is compounded by my frantic struggle to maintain control as my spacial boundaries crumble around me. My lonely struggles with my growing burden is lightened only by my willingness to ask for help (the pinnacle of my suffering which results in the sacred relief—I am not alone).
The sweetness of surrender and release makes the sacred space for transformation. In this space, God takes on our face, our tears, our scars, our hope, our new life.
This is it!
This is the promise I have avoided, denied, contained and controlled. Finally, the suffering is shared, the burden lightened to a manageable load, and the life of the new birth is enjoyed. It is more than enjoyed. We are in a place of unspeakable grace. We are resting, bathed in waters of life, and freedom to be part of the promise.
Well done my good and faithful servants.