For three weeks WeWo focused on the soul. Not surprisingly, suffering was examined at length. “Life is difficult.” That is the opening line of M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled and it is something our pastor Dr. Arthur Caliandro repeats often. Indeed life is difficult. From finding food to eat in remote villages to navigating family relationships in a metropolis, we humans are faced with the difficult task of navigating through life.
What struck me about Pastor Lewicki's sermon was that it focused not on why we suffer or even how to avoid suffering, but rather how to respond to suffering. He painted the picture of a river of suffering that runs through life, everyone eventually comes to it. We can stand on the side and never cross or we can wade and swim and struggle through. It is easy, maybe even natural, to desire the comfort and safety of the river shore, but it is only through navigating those difficult waters that a soul can grow. “Our souls are smaller than they could because it is easier, safer,” David says.
But there is another way. Simone Weil, a wealthy European Jew quit her lucrative job to work in a factory. When the Nazis rose to power she escaped to England and lived on the rations of those in occupied France. Inspired by a conversion to Christianity, She worked endlessly for justice for the working class and then for the Jews during the reign of Hitler. She believe that:
“It is possible for a person to engage in and take seriously, even take on, the suffering of others. One can not only live with suffering, but live as a suffering person, in a way that does not wallow in it or glorifies it but trusts that God will use even suffering to dignify and even elevate the human soul”
As David continued to talk about suffering and our response to it, both our own suffering and that of those around us, I remembered just how important Equality Ride was. That voluntary redemptive suffering is not an idea someone cooked up recently. It isn't even a tactic that Gandhi created. Rather, voluntary redemptive suffering is a very basic way in which we can confront suffering and injustice and rise above it, refusing to be beaten down. Suffering can “compress the human soul into a cramped knot of bitterness” as Weil said, or it can explode it into something powerful and beautiful, as I saw in my two-months on the road and the unexpected path my life has since taken.
I return to a faith in Christ not because I expect to make life easier, or prettier, or more orderly. Far from it, for my life has been more demanding, more taxing, and more uncertain than ever before, but it has also been more fulfilling.