As I prepare mentally and spiritually for what I know will be the most emotional liturgy of the year for me, I’m reminded of the Alanon saying, “Pain in inevitable; suffering is optional.” If you’ve never been to 12 step meeting, you might be thinking, “pain and suffering are the same thing.” In this case, pain refers to the inevitable hurts life dishes out: death, breakups, disappointments, etc. Suffering refers to the pain we inflict on ourselves.
Tonight I will go to church and participate in a remembrance of the Last Supper, of fellowship and subjugating ourselves to one another that includes washing each other’s feet. Before we leave the church, all of the beautiful trappings we use to celebrate the Eucharist each week will be removed, leaving the altar stripped and the cross covered.
Tonight is the night we keep vigil in the church, waiting in the garden with Christ as he prepares himself to face unimaginable pain at the hands of his own people. For those of us in liturgical churches, tonight will be a painful night. We know what’s coming. We know it hurts.
I am, however, reminded that I will not suffer. I will hurt, but I will not suffer. That is not what the Lord intends. Pain is inevitable, but in the Lord there is no suffering. I will surrender to him, to his plan.
I’m also reminded that my pain is a small cross to bear in comparison to that of the apostles. Imagine seeing your friend and teacher flogged and hanging on a cross, his broken body dead and lifeless. They’ve been warned what’s coming, but they don’t know as we do. They haven’t experienced it before. Their Savior is going to be betrayed and gone. We know Easter is the third day. They don’t.
My pain is a small cross to bear in comparison with the sacrifice Jesus is preparing to make. He knows he will be resurrected, but he also knows that to get there he must be flogged, beaten, and crucified. We can pretend he isn’t scared, but why else would he ask God to stop it if there is any other way? He is divine, but he is also fully human. He will feel the lashes. He will feel the nails.
Beginning today, the next few days will be difficult, painful. But I will not suffer. I will experience the pain, and I will have Faith that this too shall pass, as all things do.