What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Interesting
May 15, 2018
One of my favorite authors, Peter Rollins, often says that we are all haunted houses, full of ghosts. What he means it that we each have experiences, relationships, people, and failures that haunt us. You can probably very quickly think of one of your own ghosts; someone you’ve lost, someone who wronged you, a venture that fell flat, or a dream you never pursued. For Rollins, the problem is that often these ghosts go unaddressed. We avoid, distract, or simply try to get over them without ever really dealing with them. Without properly diving into our ghosts they continue to haunt us and work their way into our everyday interactions. However, if we choose the long and often painful process of wrestling with our ghosts, Rollins says that there is the possibility of turning them from poltergeists into Holy Ghosts. Those things you would rather forget and move on from can be transformed into the very things that make you more beautiful and unique.
Recently I’ve been learning a lot about trees. I’ve quickly realized trees are far more amazing than I gave them credit for and are one of our best windows into God’s creativity and beauty. In The Hidden Life Of Trees, Peter Wohlleben begins by describing what it was like to work in the logging industry. He writes about walking into a forest and assessing trees based on their value. The best trees for logging are straight, thick and healthy. However, the author found that when he brought others into the woods they were far more interested in the gnarly, misshapen and unhealthy trees. The most fascinating trees were the ones that were not useful but rather stood out and seemed to tell a story.
I believe the same may be true of people. The most interesting and wise people tend to be those that have suffered the most. They may very well be successful and productive but that’s not what makes them interesting. What makes them interesting are the parts of their story that were painful, difficult, gritty, and messy. The things that make us worth knowing are the very things that we try hardest to avoid, and it’s only when we have lost much that we are able to offer much to others.
Jesus demonstrates this beautifully after his resurrection when he reunites with the disciples. In Luke 24:39 Jesus says, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Upon seeing his friends again for the first time after his death, one of the first things Jesus does is show them his wounds and scars. He didn’t leave the holes behind in the resurrection, he didn’t forsake his humanity for a new and perfect body. Rather, he carried it with him to show the disciples that pain and suffering are a beautiful part of what it means to be human.
Often in sermons about Easter we hear about how Jesus defeated and destroyed death and suffering. Jesus is painted as this conquering hero, but rather than destroying the Romans, he conquers the parts of life that we want to avoid, namely suffering and death. It’s no surprise that we have this interpretation, given that most of our books and movies portrays a good character whose sole purpose throughout the story is to destroy the bad guy. Jesus certainly defeats death, but he doesn’t do it as a strong conquering hero. Instead, Jesus defeats death by redeeming it and making it a part of the better story. It’s not that Jesus had a showdown with death and came out on top. It’s that he dove head first into pain and made it his greatest ally. Jesus turned his poltergeists into Holy Ghosts.
My prayer is that we would do the same. That we would have the courage to face our ghosts, deal with them head on and know that Jesus wants to change them into our greatest allies. This doesn’t mean that we go out looking for pain, it will inevitably find us anyway. It simply means that when suffering does come, we know that we have a God who suffers with us. It means we ask ourselves, “Who do I need to call this week?” “Who do I need to forgive?” “Who do I need forgiveness from?” “What do I need to grieve?” “What risk do I finally need to take?” We do this knowing that we have a God with holes in his hands and holes in his feet and who says to us, “Look, touch, see, and know that I’m with you.”
High School Director