I read something yesterday that surprised me out of my daily humdrum and spoke volumes to me about the human condition. While researching Scientology, I discovered a therapy-like process Scientologists participate in called auditing. Its goal is to "restore beingness and ability", thereby providing a "precise path by which any individual may walk an exact route to higher states of spiritual awareness." Fair enough. Many of us want spiritual awareness, regardless of which religion or faith we associate with. But here's the thing that really jolted me:
"Auditing, then, deletes those things that were added to the reactive mind through life's painful experiences and addresses and improves one's ability to confront and handle the factors in his life."
Did I read that correctly? It deletes those things that were added to the reactive mind through life's painful experiences. Just like that, and all the pain I've been through and all the ways in which I've been hurt are simply erased. And isn't that what everyone wants? To be rid of the pain and discomfort we experience in our imperfect and messy lives? To feel nothing but happiness, contentment, peace and fulfillment? Sure we do. It's only natural.
But what really bothers me about this statement is the fact that we really do believe that in order to live a rich and satisfying life, we must delete the pain. After all, so many of us have experienced it ruthlessly, unjustly, and its after-shock is still writhing around in our lives, wreaking havoc and leaving broken relationships in its wake. We never feel stable or secure, we're anxious, distrusting, sad and lonely. Old wounds (and new ones) have ways of seeping into the cracks of our heart like nothing else can. So I don't condemn this sentiment or judge anyone who has felt it -- in fact, there are specific times in my life I remember crying out to God and begging Him to just take this pain away, take it away please...I'm no different than anyone else.
Yet what exactly are we doing when we're asking this question? We're desperate for our hurt to go away because we don't like imperfection. We don't like to feel uncomfortable or sad or angry or alone. And again, that is normal, especially when we've been deliberately and deeply wounded or mistreated. But when we deny ourselves of the experiences that we've had, the pieces that make up the puzzle that is our life, we only miss out on the richness that could be. In essence, we deny who we are. It would be so much easier, we think, to have someone press some cosmic "delete" button, our feelings the pain has caused evaporating as though it never happened. But the reality is it has happened. We have been hurt and wounded, we have felt sadness and brokenness, and the secret is, we'll be OK. We don't need anyone to erase our pain because, believe it or not, pain is a part of our story. It's sometimes the very thing that carries us into who we're meant to be and the part we're meant to play in this world.
So embrace the pain, but don't glorify it, because pain is never the end of the story. With God, there is always the light of redemption at the end of the tunnel, a newness to be discovered, a healing to be restored. We are made for and capable of so much more than the simplistic and disengaged task of merely pressing the delete key, and subduing ourselves in the process. We're created to experience life and life abundantly, and what could be more abundant and victorious than that final trudge out of the desert into the Eden that's teeming with life?