My friend and I just sat there while the credits rolled and the theater emptied, trying somehow to stop the tears that had been flowing, well… pretty much since the opening credits. It took some serious effort. And some chocolate. Eventually we got up and left, occasionally mumbling something like, "Wow," and, "you do realize we paid money for that experience?"
At some point, one of us came out of the daze long enough to ask the other the same question everyone asks us when we tell them that we went to see a movie about two kids with cancer who fall in love. "Why did we put ourselves through that?" Seriously. It's not like we didn't know what was coming. We even came prepared with several packages of kleenexes. (And it almost wasn't enough.)
Who does that? And why?
We decided the answer was in one of the most repeated lines in the story. "Pain demands to be felt."
Many of us spend our lives avoiding, denying, or stuffing the things that cause us pain. But then, one day we find ourselves in a dark theater, watching a story about someone else's pain. And we can't stop the tears. Because pain demands to be felt. We can't pretend forever. Eventually, it will find it's way out. And the longer we lock it away, the more feisty it will be when it escapes.
For a long time, I couldn't reconcile the painful stuff with the Jesus stuff. For some reason I thought that since I had Jesus, I wasn't supposed to feel or express the pain. Didn't trust meant I was supposed to be able to "handle" this hard stuff? It meant smiling no matter what and saying, "God has a plan," right? So when the tears came, along with the gut-wrenching grief… I felt guilty. Because obviously if I was feeling this way, my faith wasn't strong enough. I wasn't handling this right. All my prayers started to sound the same. And the sound they made was, "I'm sorry."
They sound different now. There are more questions. I don't always get answers, and that's okay. Sometimes I just need to know it's okay to ask. What is this about God? I don't understand. Do you really want us to respond to these heartbreaking things stoically? Do you want us to walk through life without emotion? Without struggle? Without question? Is that what it means to trust?
And sometimes, at the end of a long line of questions, one comes out that sounds a lot like an answer. Or maybe trust mean you let yourself feel it, but you believe that God is feeling it with you… that He suffers with you?
And I think maybe there's something there. Because this is the One who says He is "close to the brokenhearted," the One who, "rescues those whose spirits are crushed." (Psalm 34:18.) And then there was that time He wore skin like us. And he wept over his friend's lifeless body, even as He was about to speak the Words that put life back into it. And suddenly that whole "feeling pain makes you less spiritual" thing doesn't quite add up. Because Jesus.
So I'm learning.
To let the tears go ahead and fall.
To admit that the loss is real.
The pain is real.
The grief is real.
And I'm allowed to feel it.
I'm allowed to talk about it.
I believe He is not ashamed of our pain.
I believe He feels with us.
And there's something else I believe.
It's a crazy thing called redemption.
And I believe it's just as real as the hurt we have to walk through to get there.
I think sometimes we try to pretend we've found a short-cut, and we'll just skip a few chapters and go right to the happy ending, thank you very much. But I don't think that's how it works. I think redemption comes and finds us. In the most unlikely place. Right in the middle of our pain.