Contradictions

From great pain, comes our life’s greatest joys.

Life is full of contradictions and juxtapositions, if you think about it. And I did, on Monday, walking through The Grotto (The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother) in Portland, Oregon, with friends. As you walk through their gardens, all of the art there—the statues and carvings—all focus on themes of sorrow and joy. Christ was born = joy. Christ suffered = sorrow. Christ died = sorrow. Christ gives us new life = joy. Joy comes from pain.

This whole theme challenges me. I don’t like pain. I’m not a fan of it at all. I so hate pain that I practically carry a pharmacy in my purse, so that if I have any pain at any given time, I can take something to get rid of it. It grieves me that all of life isn’t so easily medicated. And sometimes, I have pains that Excedrin just won’t help.

In Chapter 2 of Kisses from Katie, Katie talks about how contradictory her experience in Uganda has been. Life isn’t comfortable there. There is intense heat, poverty, hunger. And though life on a daily basis is almost overwhelming in its difficulty, the blessings that come from the experience far outweigh the discomfort.

Monday night, I took a redeye flight back to NC from the West Coast. I was extremely sad to be leaving my family of friends there. All I wanted to do on the flight home was sleep. And to ensure that this would happen, as I stood in line to board, I reached into my purse and grabbed my trusty chewable herbal sleeping pill. I knew that by the time we took off, it would kick in and lull me into blissful sleep.

Our plane was only half full and the college-aged girl sitting on the aisle and I rejoiced that the seat between us was empty. But right as they began to close the door to the airplane, a lady stumbled onto the plane and showed her ticket to the flight attendant. I heard the flight attendant say, “Oh, there’s plenty of seats. Just pick one. Doesn’t matter.” And I saw the bumbling lady make a beeline for the empty seat next to me.

Sigh.

All I wanted to do was sleep, but by thirty minutes after takeoff, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Reeking of cigarettes and alcohol, my seatmate nursed the four glasses of wine that she had ordered and talked. And talked. And talked.

I sat next to her, fighting sleep and listening. I thought about closing my eyes and just letting her talk. I’m pretty sure that she would have kept talking, even then. But something in me just poked my soul and said, “Look at her. Smile at her. Care about her.” So, I fought my eyes open and listened. No advice. I just listened, until about two hours into the flight, she wound down and laid her head on my shoulder and went to sleep.

When we woke up in Atlanta yesterday morning, she smiled at me and said, “Have you ever met somebody that you know you’ll never see again, but that you know you’ll never forget? I’ll never forget you.”

Not everything in life is going to be fun or comfortable or easy. But through pain and suffering and sorrow and inconvenience, come blessings. I didn’t want to stay up most of the night listening to a drunken stranger ramble on vaguely about her troubles. But she needed me to. And I needed me to. And through my discomfort and inconvenience, her life was made better, even if for only a moment.

Katie says, “Even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in. I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter.”

This post is part of our regularly scheduled weekly book discussion on Kisses from Katie. Please feel free to stay and comment, even if you haven’t read the book. Your thoughts are valuable! Please also go by my co-facilitator’s site and see what Jason has to say on the matter. Also, you’ll find this week’s link widget at his place, if you’ve written a response to this week’s chapter. Thanks for joining us!

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. Way to enter in!

    I used the same quote. Heh.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, great minds think alike and ours do, too! 😉

  3. I fly a lot and dread the talkative neighbor. I look at my time on a plane as “me time” with no cell phone to ring to interrupt me, no kids sneaking in asking me to play with them, no chores to finish. But I’ve read too many accounts of people using those opportunities to share the Gospel with someone. So I too stop and listen, despite my lack of comfort. I’ve had some great conversations, and many not so great ones. But hopefully I plant a seed and leave a lasting impression as it sounds like you did.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Frank, thank you for joining me in the “discomfort zone” and reaching out to others. It makes a difference! And thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts here with us. :)

  5. I’ve had those times on planes of just listening to someone. Some are open to spiritual things and others want nothing to do with it (it always comes up when I tell them I’m a pastor), but it’s not about what we think we can accomplish. Divine appointments are sometimes very subtle. We may only be preparing them for the next encounter with someone. We don’t have to do all the work, we just have to be open and enter in. Good word, Sarah! Thanks.

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