I was recently speaking at a day for men and during the coffee break one of the men came to me and started to cry. He told me that his life was falling apart. His wife had left him for another man and taken their children. He had started to drink and lost his house. He was living at his mother's, sleeping on the sofa. He did not know how he was going to get through. As he cried he kept saying to me, "I'm sorry, I'll pull myself together" and I was trying to say to him, "You don't need to do that, feel what you have to feel."
The Franciscan priest and ecumenical teacher Richard Rohr says that you must allow your pain to be transformed or you will transmit it to others, and part of the process of transforming pain is to feel it and accept it rather than try to control it. Henri Nouwen, the great Jesuit author, often laid himself bare in order encourage us to find life. In one of his journals he wrote: "The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your wounds to your head or your heart."
Life comes through death. That is at the heart of the Gospel message. Sometimes the deaths we experience are the deaths of our hopes, dreams, self-confidence. I think the invitation the Gospel gives us is to trust the Jesus cycle of life, death and resurrection. We are to face our pain and take it on and somehow, in the doing of that, transform it into life.
The hardest times in my life have also been the most life-giving times as I have tried to discover what my pain was telling me. You have got to let yourself be vulnerable. You have got to let yourself be weak. You have got to let yourself be touched and broken in order to really find an authentic life. We all have pain in our lives. Rather than see it as the enemy, let it teach us the Gospel truth that life comes through death, that Easter Sunday always follows Good Friday, and that we have within us the power of the Spirit to transform pain into life.