Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Let it Bleed

Everybody gets them.
And what is our first reaction? "Quick! Put pressure on it! Get a bandage! Stop the bleeding!"
And, indeed, that reaction is often the appropriate one.
But not always.

Sometimes, when the hurt is shallow, an irritating scrape or narrow cut, wisdom says to leave it open to the air, even to let it bleed awhile and let it close on its own.
That's messy. And it takes time.
But it cleans out the wound and lets a scab form naturally
and, if we don't pick it off (admit do, too), it heals properly. It may leave a scar, but that is all.
But this is not a first aid lesson.
Well, come to think of it, maybe it is.
It's the psalms.
The psalms, with their in-your-face wounding, their constant oozing emotions. The psalms, weak and unapologetic. They are the child hanging on our legs, the weeping widow, the forsaken friend, the disappointed lover. They are tears running unwiped down cheeks. They are unabashed, aching loneliness.
The psalms bleed.

God says, in essence, "Yes, you're hurting. I know it. I've been there. Hurt awhile. You'll be OK."
And I'm starting to understand why.
There is an opportunity in the process of hurting, one that cannot be improved upon by binding up. And we have a name for it.

Compassion is the place where we meet one another in an icky place that we can't fix. Compassion is the hand we hold through pain. It is the ear that listens without interrupting. It is finding a rock willing to accept our beating of it.
It gets messy. Oh, yes.
And this is a hard place to be. No sane person enjoys watching another suffer.
It is our first reaction to rescue someone in trouble. But not always the right one.
And sometimes, we have no choice.
I'm thinking of sickness, or the process of childbirth, or mourning. There is no way out of these except through them to whatever end they bring.

Did you ever see a meat tenderizer?

Nasty thing, isn't it? But oh, the result! Well, that's us. We need tenderizing. We need to experience compassion that feels to us like being beaten along with the person suffering. Compassion allows us to suffer along with someone else. And yes--that is a privilege.

So, in the end, we fix what we can, but look out for the times when we can't, when we are borne along the waves with another, anticipating the comfort waiting for us both at a distance, someplace at the end. It makes us tender. And eventually, it heals.

So, when the occasion calls for it, don't struggle and flail:  Let it bleed.

God is a father who rocks us through our struggles, a mother who carries us beyond our pain...Many people are forgiving. A few are just. But compassionate people are rarer still. The people who simply stand by when we hurt--not trying to talk us out of it, not trying to convince us we're wrong, not demanding that we pretend to be something else--are is compassion that we ourselves must develop if we are ever to be worth anything to anyone at all--besides ourselves.
--Sr. Joan Chittister, the Psalms, Meditations for Every Day of the Year