Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pain into Love

Someone wrote me recently about a problem he was having.  He often felt invisible.  He didn't mean that people couldn't see him, he meant that people wouldn't see him.  The example he gave was at a church coffee hour.  He was talking to someone and another person came up and started talking to the person he was talking to as though he were not there at all.  Apparently, that happens to him often and it bothers him.  This is what I wrote back.

There seems to be two issues here—at least two that I recognize and can address.
First is the general lack of manners common in a church setting.  I'm certainly not Mr. Manners.  I perform many a social faux pas.  Nevertheless, it seems many people treat others as invisible unless they are "important" to them at that moment.  It's just basic rudeness.  At Holy Nativity I am important, so everyone notices me; but in other settings (with lots of priests), I am a nobody, so I am often ignored—especially if I do not have anything to contribute to the conversation.  I hate small talk, I'm terrible at it.  I talk about what is important or not at all.  I say what I think about the topic under discussion—except when I suspect that my contribution will cause more headache (to me or others) than blessing; then when I am done, I say nothing.  I often just say nothing.  I just stand there until I can graciously escape.  

The second issue is your discomfort with being invisible.  Actually, it is an answer to prayer.  God is giving you a chance to look for the outcast and lonely.  When we feel left out, that is a signal to us that others need us and we must find them.  I suggest that you let that feeling of rejection or loneliness or invisibleness (however you feel it) be a kind of guide to help you find and engage others whom you suspect might be having similar feelings.  Look around the room: Who is sitting by him/her self, who is on the edge of a group but not participating, who looks like they are feeling awkward.  Go to them and be friendly—mostly listen because that is a huge gift to others.  That's how you help others feel "normal."  Even when you don't feel quite right, you can give to others the gift of feeling OK about themselves.  

Be at peace.  There is nothing wrong with you.  We just live in a rude age, and you (and I) are still learning how to turn the discomfort (or even pain) you (and I) experience into love.  This is an essential Christian calling.  Our bodies and our whole lives are great transformers.  Like Christ, we take the rejection and pain that the world gives us and use it to help us attend to those suffering around us. Thus pain is transformed into love.  Death becomes Resurrection.  Sin becomes Grace.  What else could it mean to be the Body of Christ except to do and be what He did and was in the world?

No comments: