A comment on my Facebook photo today, “I hope you are as happy as you look”, oh I wish I was, I’ve always been quite good at hiding behind a smile and a laugh, some people notice others don’t. When I began training to be a spiritual accompanist I remember the course leader asking me why I was smiling while telling a particular story. It was a painful story, and honestly I had been unaware of my smile, it was part of a much used mask, one that I have worn on multiple occasions, one that has hidden the truth that is within me, and one that would be easy in some ways to slip on now.
Well it would be easy to slip on now, but I appear to have lost it, it had become too worn and brittle to be used anymore, and had certainly become unsustainable, the choice to pull myself together and carry on is gone, and I am dealing with many of the things that I have hidden from myself and others for a long time.
Sadly, in Christian circles I don’t think we are very good at dealing with the dark night of the soul, and yet it is a common experience for many, certainly the Saints and mystics wrote of it and knew it well, in his devotions today Richard Rohr writes:
“When we try to live in solidarity with the world’s pain—and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” (I do not use that word lightly.) Many say pain is physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance, denial, and sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. I know that is very true for me. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with the pain of the world. Reflecting on this mystery of love can change our lives.
It seems there is an inherent negative energy or resistance from all of us when we are suffering, and it is in those moments that we are invited to a more generous response. It is actually the necessary dying that the soul must walk through to go higher, farther, deeper, or longer. The saints called these dyings “nights,” darkness, or seasons of unknowing and doubt. Our society has almost no spiritual skills to deal with our personal and collective pain, so we resort to pills, addictions, and other distractions to get us through. This does not bode well for the future of humanity.“
There is a lot of pain in the world at the moment, and a lot of confusion, with war, and pandemic and the daily struggle of life, the world can seem very heavy even on the brightest of days. It is a lot to deal with, and while I do feel all of that, along with the often expected response of how we help those affected most, and of course I will do the very little that I can, this is not what is burdening me. I am burdened by my own inner questioning and turmoil, by pains not dealt with and by my inability to slap on that mask and carry on.
My mask has gone, shattered and blown away, and I am left with myself to deal with, myself to bring before God, myself so long hidden that she is in some ways a stranger to me, myself who may grow in a new and more authentic way, a self that I hope will emerge stronger, but right now needs the silence of Holy Saturday to stretch out for as long as is needed, the day of death, before the full recreation and resurrection. What has been is past, what I will be still awaits me.