The Book of Common Prayer is a tool I use in my daily devotional. The text struck a chord with me this morning. I’m in the later stages of my first pregnancy and my mind is now turning to labour and what the actual birth of my child might entail.
So many people talk about pain when they refer to labour. Of course, you can use any word you like, but the general consensus seems to be that birth hurts. I’ve decided that the fear of pain might be worse than the experience of it, but maybe I’m sticking my head in the sand!
Every day in the news, we hear of people in unbearably painful situations. Somehow though, they find the strength to endure – whether the outcome’s to die, to live through the pain, or even live with the pain.
I was amazed to read in my devotional this morning that in his last sermon before being assassinated, the great justice hero, Martin Luther King Jr, said: “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.
“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming Lord.”
There is so much courage and hope in this speech that it inspires boldness. How can a man treat potential pain and death as if they were only a passing moment?
What could be so beautiful to Dr King that he is now happy to accept the physical limitation of human existence?
Interestingly, the short, final period before Jesus’ death, leading to his execution by crucifixion, is known as the Passion of Christ. The root of the word in Latin, ‘passionem’ means suffering and enduring. The Greek ‘Pema’ apparently means suffering, misery and woe.
How can the word ‘passion’, which is so closely related to romance for many of us, also mean suffering?
Are the two experiences intimately connected to the point of being inseparable?
Would I choose not to love, if I knew for certain that this love was going to cause me pain?
It strikes me that when I’ve sung worship songs with lyrics such as You Are My Passion, I’ve never really understood what I am saying to God. Did I really mean that he is the one I would suffer and endure pain for out of love?
Where is the pursuit of my desire going to take me, and will I go?