From Below – a Meditation on Suffering – Timothy Willard


Timothy Willard is a lover of the writings of C.S. Lewis, which comes through in his own writing, too. Since C.S Lewis was both a storyteller and theologian par excellence, that’s probably one of the best compliments you can give a writer, I reckon. This week’s God and Suffering story is a little different to normal – a dreamy and dreamlike C.S. Lewis-style meditation on God and Suffering – enjoy:  

 

Photo Credit: Yasser Mirza

Photo Credit: Yasser Mirza


I am flanked by pain and love. As I approach the river where it all went down. Those moments of reflection in which the memory ignited the feeling, that birthed the tears, that seared my conscious. I am here, on this bank, waiting to rise.
 

From Below
 
When I heard the news, I sank. “Where is the glory?” I cried. “Where is the justice?” I shouted. “Where is the newness we’re promised?” The paradox of faith in the midst of pain. The moment where spitting upon the dirt for healing seems like a faerie tale. I am a dirge of a Jesus Follower. How weak I grow beneath the mud of suffering.

 
It’s not even mine. It’s his. It’s hers. It’s yours.

 

I run out into the quiet moments, by the river and scream hell on earth. And fall in a heap. I choke on my indignation. Make it stop, Lord. And forgive me of my soiled reaction; the lashing of my heart upon the air.

 

Rebellion has its consequences. Rebellion breaks, no, it shatters. “Oh, but there is beauty in the ashes.” Beauty doesn’t rise from the ashes. It rises in spite of the ashes. We break, sure. But our rebellion was the crushing. And in this battlefield we live. I want to rise, from below.

 

To Bear

“What were the lashes for, anyway, Lord? Can’t you make this stop?” He leads me with those eyes of eternity. The ones that grind beauty into me. I am here in this “ostrich” time, this meaningless hurt, and for what?

 

The cat o’ nine tails whipped around his body, not to end it all. But to cut a fleshy way, passed the groaning, and into joy. They cut to kill. But he submitted so that he could bear it all. To take it, from below, and give it away to joy.

 

I emerge from below to bear the whips with you.

 

With You

I throw obscenities at the flowing water, at the air, at God. He takes it because he can. He reminds me in the quiet moments, the reflective moments of prayer and petition and confession and guts and glory, that I see only the river.

 

The river is his. From his mind, from his magic glow, from his tempest-being. He breathed it. He sustains it. It is the icon of his glory.

 

He took the tails, their whipping and blood-thirsty savagery, so that he could move unscathed midst our rebellion, so that he could show us a secret door into another place.

 

Aslan, the great Lion, showed the children a similar door. Inside the door a new land emerged and continued to do so. On and on, rolling further, and further still. “I have finally come home!” shouted the Unicorn.

 

Home is where we find one another; we together, in the pain of unglory. We together, pushed so, by forces below. We together, rising with the magic of fellowship, of kindness, and love.

 

All I can do is hold your hand, my brother, my sister. I will shout and scream with you. I will curse this day for you. I will bear with you, for the Glory, for the newness. Until we get home.

 

tim willardTimothy Willard is a writer and the author of Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life, Home Behind the Sun: Connect With God in the Brilliance of the Everyday, and the critically acclaimed Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society. He is a PhD candidate at King’s College London, studying beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis under theologian Alister McGrath. When he’s not making up faeries stories for his wife and three pixie-daughters you can find him on his mountain bike carving up the woods. Follow his work at www.timothywillard.com

 
Tweetables: 
 
“I will curse this day for you. I will bear with you” – @TimothyWillard for @Tanya_Marlow on suffering – From Below:
 
“Home is where we find one another; we together, in the pain of unglory.” @TimothyWillard for @Tanya_Marlow:
 
“How weak I grow beneath the mud of suffering.” – @TimothyWillard for @Tanya_Marlow – From Below:
 
Over to you: 
 

  • “He reminds me in the quiet moments, the reflective moments of prayer and petition and confession and guts and glory, that I see only the river.” Our perspective, in comparison to God’s, is so limited. To what extent does this knowledge help when you are going through suffering?
  • “All I can do is hold your hand, my brother, my sister. I will shout and scream with you…I will bear with you…Until we get home.” When have you seen people support your suffering in this way? How easy do you find it to support others in their suffering this way?

 
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