Today as I’m deleting about 1,000 emails, I run across a headline from one of the spiritual lists I’m on. The subject “Life Is Supposed to Be Fun”. I delete it without even thinking because I’m on a roll, half a second later. I’m thinking “Wait? What? I’ve got to read that.” I go back. It’s from the same pastor I heard speak when Tywana and I were in Phoenix earlier this summer. The title of his talk “It’s Hell In The Hallway”- the subject basically being that life is a series of painful lessons that take us from place to place of learning and growth, but it’s hell in between the time one door is closed and another opens. So which is it? Is life fun? Or, is life full of painful lessons?
Tywana’s watching Super Soul Sunday and the guest this week talks about how she now embraces the painful moments in life because they are learning opportunities. She sits with them and holds them and tries to determine the lesson. This woman is leaning into life’s painful moments. Moments- ha! Life’s painful eras.
I’m reading my friend Roberta Grimes’ book “The Fun of Growing Forever”. It’s a primer of how to take the teachings of Jesus and apply them to our lives, in a non-religious way, to maximize our happiness and spiritual growth while we are here. This line from the book jumps out at me. “The truth is that our lives on earth are brief, trivial, and full of pain. That is by design. Nothing of this world that we think we are gaining turns out be of any value, and attaching undue importance to even modest riches and status can set us far back spiritually.”
So, two out of three sources are telling me that life isn’t so much about being fun as life is about pain. What has my experience been? Life can be quite joyful. There are many beautiful things on this planet to enjoy- traveling, friends, family, good food, wine, the stunning beauty of nature. It’s a good place. However, the fact remains that, if you’re here long enough, you’re going to feel pain. I’ve always known it. I steeled myself, braced for the pain of losign a parent or even a sibling. I’m in my mid 50s. It was bound to happen. It’s life. I was not ready to lose Shayna.
Atheists often become atheists because of this “problem of pain” given the fancy name “theodicy”. I saw a meme just yesterday presenting God with a multiple choice question as to why He lets bad things happen. Can He not stop them? Does He not care? Does He want them to happen? Nowhere among the selections was the choice “Maybe they’re not really bad”
Our bodies and egos are programmed to avoid the very things that Earth school is here for us to experience. We seek pleasure and we avoid pain. Separation, weakness, loneliness, frustration, pain, doubt, fear, all of these are bad and to be avoided at all costs. But, what if our Souls, our greater eternal natures, crave more than anything spiritual growth? How would they go about getting it in an environment where they never feel lack, where they never can show compassion because no one needs it, where they never have to make a choice between someone else’s good and their own? Would they be willing to temporarily limit themselves to go to a place like Earth, a place with the opportunity to really test who they are and to make themselves better? Would they even be grateful for the chance to come here and be abused?
The purpose of life is another one of those great mysteries, right up there with why evil is allowed to exist. Why do we want to or need to grow? I haven’t found a satisfactory answer to that, but what seems to be evident and pretty much a consensus from the afterlife evidence given to us is that we do seek growth and this is the place to do it.
A couple of days ago I referenced Byron Katie’s The Work and Loving What Is. Just the words Loving What Is get my hackles up, as I elaborated on at length there. I don’t want to love “what is”, I want “what is” to be what I want. As I was reading Roberta’s three major steps to living this better life, I tripped over the first one- An Attitude of Gratitude. This keeps coming up, too. And it’s the first step on many spiritual practices. We’re supposed to not only accept what is, we’re supposed to be grateful for it. As a parent of a child who is no longer with me and who will never be with me as long as I’m trapped in this body of flesh, I’m having a lot of difficulty generating this gratitude. Yet, they tell me if I can’t do that, I’m stuck. Stuck on step one, unable to progress to Step 2.
There is only one way I can be grateful for what is right now. I have to look at is as temporary and for my greater good. I cannot be happy with the separation, the loneliness, and the pain. I cannot be happy looking at Kayla and Tywana and knowing they are going through the same hell I am. I can’t be grateful for that. What I have to do is make a paradigm shift. If I look at this as a growth opportunity planned by our souls, maybe I can start to be grateful for it. If I can look at this life as an afternoon in the gym and Shayna’s death as a set on a particularly difficult piece of equipment, maybe I can be grateful for it because I know it’s going to help me build those muscles I desire.
Nobody likes going to the gym, except maybe those crazy CrossFit people. We don’t go to the gym to have fun. The gym might have a movie theater and a smoothie bar, but the gym is a place we go to work. We dread going and we love the feeling of accomplishment we have when we leave.