Lent, Holy Week and Easter are often a time of reflection for people of particular religious beliefs and, coming as they do in the season of Spring, even those of us with less attachment to a specific church may find our thoughts turning to themes of new beginnings. Our new-found energy (commonly known as Spring Fever) makes itself felt as we take up tasks and experiences for which motivation has been severely lacking. Sometimes these tasks can include some personal reflection (inner house-cleaning) as we struggle towards individual re-birth. I know that I am always grateful for this season, as I do not easily take up the question of which parts of my life could use some restoration.
The scripture story which sees us through the Easter season tells us clearly that the burst of new life, the glorious, affirmative “I AM alive!” only comes upon the heels of horrid, frightening pain and death (of some sort) and a terrifying period of loneliness and despair. While I am comforted and hopeful about the resurrection piece, I am scared silly by the path to it. And yet, in my own life and in the stories I have been privileged to hear from the people I work with in counseling, I consistently see that there is a correlation between the two. That doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, I really don’t. I keep thinking about the ’70s musical called Purlie! Do you remember it? It was the story of a black minister who
preached that people should not have to wait for heaven to feel good – he believed that you got to feet good right here on earth. I don’t remember him saying much about all the suffering you had to go through first. Now that I like. So, how do I reconcile these two views?
Well, I say to myself, let’s think about this. We all know that things change, that we are confronted with many painful situations, and that those times are hard very hard. But still, if I can keep my “eyes on the prize”‘ remember that all birth is preceded by labor at least I can try to maintain an attitude that can conceivably lessen the distress the pain might cause. I want to believe, like the preacher, that I can be happy…but I’m getting the point where this happiness may be in spite of the pain rather than instead of it. Isn’t that part of the Buddhist view? That is, that while difficulties are inevitable, the amount of suffering is optional. It has taken me a while to really understand this, and I don’t always get
to it right away in the midst of trouble. Still, I find that I keep coming back to it, and that helps. In the meantime, I put on my soundtrack of Purlie!