As I came down the escalator at the library, the man in front of me apologized when he saw that I had stopped behind him. He gently moved his cane-carrying companion over to one side, apologized again, and motioned me past. Years ago, I might not have thought twice about it. Now, having a family member for whom movements such as standing up can be painful because of degenerative arthritis has made me more aware—perhaps nowhere more so than at church.
The story goes that God got a body. I’ve often pondered the relationship between incarnation and pain.
It's hard to believe that any preacher would choose to preach on this week's epistle reading. There are words here rarely spoken in our sanctuaries, and using this text might get a preacher sent to denominational reform school.
Deep suffering makes theologians of us all. The questions people ask about God in Sunday school rarely compare with the questions we ask while we are in the hospital. This goes for those stuck in the waiting room as well as those in the hospital beds. To love someone who is suffering is to learn the visceral definition of pathetic: affecting or exciting emotion, especially the tender emotions, as pity or sorrow; so inadequate as to be laughable or contemptible. To spend one night in real pain is to discover depths of reality that are roped off while everything is going fine.