Endure the Pain

Can there be anything as beautiful as love..? Can there be anything as frustrating as love..? You can learn the first, even through seeing that relationship flourish from a distance. But you can never learn the depths of the second, unless you’ve truly loved, can you..?

Have you been there..? Facing the dilemma that enters your head, when you see them taking a wrong turn..? Should you take a stand..? Should you stay quiet..? If taking a stand meant you’d keep them from losing their way, then it’d be an easy choice. But what if you lose them..? You could be the one person who’s presence they could use in their lives as they walk the hazardous path. Would you ever risk being lost to them..?

Patience can only take you so far though, at some point you break, and when that does, you’re either left with the joy of speaking words of restoration, or you’re left with nothing but the pain of love. “Why can’t they understand..?”, you wonder. I mean, they don’t have to change their way just because you say so, but why can’t they understand that you don’t hate them in speaking the words that you did..? After all these years, why would they even think that you have anything but love for them..?

Last Sunday was one of those days of pain in my life. In that moment of despair though, I found a thought I feel is worth a share. As I kept asking those questions over and over in my head, I felt as though God were asking the same of me: “Why can’t he understand..?”

I don’t know about you, but my life of faith is so full of doubt. If I come off as anything different in my writings, then that surely isn’t intentional. I question His love for me far too often. Though the knowledge of all He has done for me is clearly established within, I tend to lose focus of Him from time to time. More often than I should, you’d find me feeling as though He were indifferent to me.

Despite the number of times I’ve felt ashamed of my sin, only to head to Him and be received with a reassuring smile. Despite the number of times I’ve become weak in faith, and He’s provided me with the strength to believe. Despite the number of times I have felt overwhelmed by the situations I have faced, only to receive help in the time of need. Despite the number of times I should have drowned in grief, yet found peace within, only to come out of it with joy in my heart. Despite it all, I doubt His love for me….

Then I look at the cross, the symbol of rejection and shame, and I see Christ Jesus hanging there, blood dripping all over His scourged body, having given Himself as a sacrifice, to win for me a path to His Kingdom. Shouldn’t this ever be enough to know of His love for me..? Would God be in the wrong for asking, “after all these years, why would he even think that I have anything but love for him..?”

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;

Matthew 12:20

If I – despite my imperfect love – can feel so frustrated when my love comes into question, how would God feel, when His most perfect love is constantly questioned..? I remember the way I felt within last Sunday – even though we’re long past that moment, and our love for each other is well established as it were before. What if it were only for a moment..? When they look at you, unsure of whether you truly do love them or not, you feel something give way inside of you. I do wonder: how would God feel every time I do the same..?

The thing is, He is God and I am but a man. I may never truly know the depths of the pain that He endures for the love He has for me. But there is one thing I do know: He endures me. Even when I put Him through all that I do, knowing that such a time – when doubts arise and my faith is as weak as a smouldering wick – is when I need Him the most, He endures me. He endures me with a deeply compassionate love. Enduring me, the way I am called to endure those I am called to love….

Love endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7

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See You Soon, ‘Ma

Life has been a lot more down than up since Easter this year. Mummy fell severely ill with a lung infection. After a phase of improvement post hospitalisation, her health started detoriating gradually until the Lord took her to be with Him. All the while she was kept in sedation, denying us an opportunity to say any meaningful last words in this life.

She was the sweetest person I have ever known. Truly. I depended on her a lot more than most other sons depend on their mothers – for care and comfort – right through the 26 years of my life and she has never failed me. She had to go through a lot, first with the cancer and its treatment. Then even as she was putting up with it with a smile on her face and lots of cheer in her heart, the infection caught hold of her – refusing to let go – adding pain upon pain.

‘Ma was a woman of strength, but all that strength was concentrated in her inner being. On the outside she was as delicate as a flower. Yet somehow she managed to make full use of her brittle frame to serve as many as she could – denying herself what many would consider as basic needs.

Things of the world didn’t attract her much. There was very little that she wouldn’t let go of, if she knew that in letting go, it would be of better use to another – or even if it could just put a little smile on another’s face. But she cared for people. A lot. I wish she had kept back a fraction – even a small amount – of that care for herself. But then, that was her being her.

Her siblings tell me, that she was so always, even as a child. Not too easy when you’re the middle child. But it’s not as though she wasn’t loved, being neither the youngest or the eldest of the lot. She was a darling to her parents. I mean, why wouldn’t they love this little girl who was quiet, bashful and meek in the truest sense of the word..? Yet at the same time, she was crafty and resourceful and always willing to be of help.

In her passing, I got to hear some stories of her from her younger days that reflect these words in her life. Her elder sister told me of how when they would get a pack of assorted biscuits or any treat rather – in a time when such surprises were rare – her siblings would fight it out for the best piece, while mummy would quietly wait till everyone had what they want in their hand so that she could have what’s left over in the pack. Eating whatever is left over/what’s least desired – a habit which I could testify that she carried on till the day she was diagnosed with that dreaded disease.

The same sister was the one who picked mummy’s wedding saree due to circumstances. ‘Ma didn’t even mind fore going that most cherished choice, aunty said. She told me, “she never complained”. I told aunty that ‘ma loved that saree. The fact that she wore it on many festive days is testament to that. And it was in that saree that she was draped in as we laid her to rest.

Her younger brother told me how to him she was a nurse at one stage in her life after he got gored by a bull under his lip and was afraid to tell their mother. He was afraid that he’ll be scolded. So mum decided to spare him more pain and looked after him with the little nursing skills she had till his wound healed. Amachi – my grandmother – didn’t know this story till much later on in life. To her youngest brother – who was much younger than all her siblings – she was a mother, teaching him to brush and helping him to put on his shoes before school, he told me.

When I think of all that I heard from people during these days, she was all that she was to them and more for me. A mother who didn’t just take up the occasional role of a nurse for me as a child but even later on as a grown up, she was a nurse for me for four years before becoming sick – and even for a little while after she knew she had cancer. For a major part of those years I was completely bed ridden, and heavily dependant on her. She worked during the day, and I demanded work from her before she left for work and as soon as she came back. She slept late, and at times at night I have disturbed her short sleep for my needs. There’s not a day or moment when she complained for all that she did – rather that precious smile of hers was what I woils always get in return. Even when I hardly appeared grateful for all that she has done for me – even at moments like that when in my foolishness my tempers flared – she never lost her calm. She never saw herself as a person worth fighting for – even though she was among the rarest of people who was.

She was my financier – as my dad loves to pull her leg over [though he wasn’t any less of a spender for my desires]. Any request I had, was granted – unless of course, she felt it wouldn’t do good to me. The cost was never a constraint. Though we didn’t have any money isssues, we were a family in the middle class bracket, yet I lived the life of affluence as a child. No friend of mine could’ve easily guessed that I came from a middle class family – until they saw my mother perhaps. Not that she lacked style – she could pull off elegance with ease – but she spent so little on herself that her dressing hardly reflected the high positioning she reached in her career. As a child, I was ashamed of that at times. I wanted a mother who was stylish and all that, while my mother seemed so keen to be anything but. I’m glad though, that that part of me changed as I grew up under her influence. That I saw the beauty in that simplicity long before she passed. I admired her more than any man or woman for her beauty and style.

The pain of being separated [even if it is but for a short while] from such a beautiful person is one thing. To have such a huge void in your life. To know that while you write the lines of your life you wouldn’t be able to write it with her by your side, to read and appreciate or to disapprove and correct. That has been something I have dreaded for long. But there is something worse. Even worse than having to watch this woman – the sweetest of them all – endure physical and mental agony. The guilt that weighs in on you when you start to think of the things that you could’ve done – that might well have spared her this suffering, or at least have made it more bearable – but did not do.

And it is in the midst all this guilt and pain that I realise which of all that I have received from my mother is the greatest gift she gave me. Introducing me to my Lord and Saviour – Jesus Christ. The source of all the comfort that I find in these trying times.

She never sat me down and made me study the Bible. At least, not that I could remember. When I was little she would read stories from a Children’s Bible. But even then the tales I loved to listen to were of people like Noah or a David or a Jonah. Jesus and the New Testament tales were not the ones I loved the most. No that wasn’t how she introduced me to Him. She lived a life that held on to His principles. Through her I learnt what is mercy and forgiveness. Through her I learnt what is patience and what it means to never act in anger. Through her I learnt the joys of giving. Through her I learnt impartiality – a trait my sister would testify to. Through her I learnt what is humility. I learnt that all these were good [, though at many times I couldn’t act the way that I knew was good]. And when the time came for when I finally met the Lord and got to know Him as a person, I knew that He was and is and ever will be, all that is good.

He is the Truth that keeps me in the race, to keep me from giving up. His promises take away my anxiety and sorrow. When the Bible says in Romans 8:28, that “All things work together for the good to those who love God”, there is a peace knowing that there is a purpose to all this chaos – and a good one at that – even if I am at a loss to explain how. But I do not just believe that all this will work together to the good for me and those who are alive in this world, but for my dear ‘ma too. For she believed in Him and loved Him. Though our time here on Earth may come to an end, there are still many more days reserved for us, days where we can enjoy His goodness for eternity.

Death is but a sleep to those who have come to the Lamb. And that is the promise that fills my heart with cheer. This separation is only for a moment. For eternity we will be together – mummy and all our loved ones and me and the Lord. I so long for that day, when I will see her smiling face once again. And I will. For,

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

1 Corinthians 15:52

“You’ve been a sweet daughter, a loving sister, a devoted wife, a cherished friend and a perfect mother. You’ve given it your all. You’ve given it your best. Now take a rest that you well deserve until that blessed reunion in our Lord’s Kingdom. See you soon, ‘ma….”

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