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Last night, Peter Rollins (as he has a habit of doing) serenaded us with the Theo-Poetics of Loss that is pure Gain, of Love that is known despite and in the midst of Pain. We've been so fortunate to develop this long-term relationship with Peter and are excited about his ongoing work with Collective. In response to last night's event, our own Dan Vaughen wrote the following response and invitation for further reflection. Questions or comments on Peter's talk or Dan's reflection? Please weigh in and join the conversation in the comments.
"Peter observed that it was in the very experience of that pain of loss, that I could discover something new; become aware of a new truth." - Dan Vaughen
After listening to Peter Rollins’ talk, entitled “The ‘Lost’ Supper,” last night, I asked a friend how he was feeling. He had noticed how the lyrics of the song Robby sang (Holes) seemed to echo the pain of losses that he was experiencing. He said that he was feeling “very emotional.” When I repeated Peter’s theme, that in experiencing loss, we also experience gain, he said he was unable to grasp that thought. I asked him to ponder it.
For my benefit, this morning, I decided to ponder that thought. I realized that my advice to my friend, was actually advice to myself. (Ain’t that ALWAYS the case?) It was I who needed to ponder that thought. I am writing this, therefore, to myself. This email is just a copy of my pondering, sent to you for whatever relevance or value it may happen to have.
When I was in the midst of some of the losses I have experienced in my life, I was TOTALLY in the midst of them. My experience of loss was all encompassing. The pain consumed my awareness. I was aware of little else. It was like walking in a dense fog of pain, unable to see my hand in front of my face.
Peter reminded me last night that I was not alone in that experience. Speaking from a place that was outside of that pain, Peter observed that it was in the very experience of that pain of loss, that I could discover something new; become aware of a new truth. Every one of us has a constant companion: our experience, or the memory of our experience, of the pain of some loss or losses.
We spend a lot of time, effort, and money, trying to ease that pain. We seek comfort in religion, or therapy. We explore self-medication. We engage in any number of unhealthy behaviors. We try to “fake it until we make it.”
Therapists, evangelists or friends, he advised, should resist the temptation to offer answers or solutions for the pain we all experience.
Peter suggests that my solace lies not in avoiding, distracting, suppressing, or medicating, my experience of the pain of loss. It lies, instead, in looking at my experience differently, from a new, more objective, perspective.
Not only does the pain give me an opportunity to learn something new, it is while experiencing that pain that I recognize my connection with others. It is to share that pain that I come together with others who are engaged in a common search for solace. It is in the shared experience of the pain of our losses that we can together discover the GAIN of those losses. Whether or not we gain new insights into ourselves, we have GAINED the support of each other. We remember together that life brings us joy, as well as pain. We remember anew that were we unable to experience pain, we would be unable to experience joy - and vice versa. We remember anew what a gift Life really is. We remember anew that our answers lie not outside, but inside of ourselves. Life, an experience of pain - and of joy - is truly a gift. It is to be lived to the fullest, each day we are given. That is what I gain from my losses.
Job said “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. . . . The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. . . . And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” (NIV)
By abandoning some of the myths surrounding the life of Jesus, I have not lost his Spirit. When I take communion, I remember that the Spirit that was in Jesus, and Job, is the Spirit that is in me; a Spirit that I can experience daily, both in the pain AND in the joy of Life. That Spirit fills us; fulfills us, unites us, and survives us.
We are a misfit faith community that gathers in DeLand on Sundays at 5pm. Come as you are.
We value highly the metaphor of journey. We’re different people from different places and backgrounds, representing an intergenerational community, and we’ve traveled different paths. So, we agree not to make assumptions about the person across from us, next to us, or in conversation with us. We challenge ourselves to be sensitive, knowing this community includes a diverse group of people from life-long followers of Jesus, to people who are just now open to the idea that God might exist. We strive to avoid offense, ask good questions, articulate and explain our responses. We don’t assume fluency in bible, spirituality, or Church language, because we believe the message of Jesus is not for Christianity, but for humanity. So, we do everything in the spirit of love and grace.
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