Originally Published in the South Jetty Newspaper
When my mentor Pittman McGehee published his book The Invisible Church, started reading andcould hardly put it down...until I got to the section on Suffering, then I wanted to either walk away or at least skip ahead. I don't like suffering (does that seem redundant?) McGehee makes clear that the suffering he writes about isn't caused by physical pain, clinical mental illness, nor from abusive relationships. Those should be taken care of appropriately and directly. He writes, "The kind of suffering I'm talking about is soul suffering, and it seems to be a requirement for the building of soul...to suffer in the spiritual sense means to carry something until we know its meaning...When something happens that causes us to suffer, [we might ask] 'What is this leading to? What truth can I discern from this suffering?'...'What does this want from me? What is its meaning?'"
Each of us has suffered in our own lives by the things dealt to us by life, and now, in Port Aransas, we have all shared a collective suffering. As we move as a community from the early acute-triage-phase of our recovery work into something a bit more sustainable, we might experience suffering in new ways. With a bit more time and space in our lives, we might project our suffering outward, instead of dealing with it inwardly. Finding life frustrating, we might seek to take out our anger on undeserving people; we might even take out our anger on ourselves or to anesthetize the suffering with drugs, drinking, or unhealthy eating. I've done my share of avoiding the suffering, even while I seeking to move toward the healthy suffering McGehee writes about.
What is Hurricane Harvey asking of us as a community? What truth or meaning might we discern having gone through such a terrible disaster? How do we find the courage to ask such questions, and face the challenging road of carrying the spiritual suffering until we do find meaning? If we seek to suffer in a spiritual way, we will build soul as individuals, and the soul of our community will be stronger for it.
I can't do this work alone, though it is the cross I must carry myself. I have a community in my church and together we are seeking the meaning, finding the ways this disaster is leading us into living a life closer what Jesus teaches the kingdom of God looks like. This Lent (think: the 40 days between Mardi Gras and Easter) Trinity by the Sea will have guest lecturers to speak about how suffering leads to formation, or as Pittman McGehee describes it "builds soul." I am looking forward to hearing from our guests Sunday evenings to help me, and to help us find a deeper understanding, so this suffering isn't wasted, but becomes an opportunity to rebuild ourselves as well as our buildings.