The Rev. Peter A. Lane
A couple of weeks ago I gave in and turned on my a/c. It’s a battle I fight every year, going as long into June as possible with my windows open, listening to glorious bird songs during the day and peepers and bullfrogs through the night, cool breezes drifting through my home. And as soon as I can in the fall, I shut the a/c off and open my windows again to breathe in fresh air. I don’t like living in a home with windows shutting out the wonders that surround me, and I certainly don’t welcome the dramatic increase in my electric bill when my a/c runs 24/7. But eventually the heat and humidity of Florida win out and I reluctantly retreat to the comfort of an air conditioned home.
We are blessed in this country with a lot of “creature comforts” – temperature controlled living and work environments, water and light at the flick of a switch or the twist of a faucet. Getting from point A to point B is pretty easy for most of us, too, with cars, trains, Uber drivers, and planes zipping us wherever we want. And I, like you, am grateful for these conveniences that make our living pretty comfortable.
As human beings, we seem to be hard-wired to seek out comfort and make it our status quo. And whenever something makes us uncomfortable, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual discomfort, we seek a solution to relieve it as quickly as possible, or if we can’t find a solution, a way to mask it or ignore it – not unlike what central a/c does on a hot, sticky night. And yet, discomfort plays a healthy role in our lives – it is the means through which we are alerted to the fact that something is out of whack in our body, mind, or spirit.
There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking relief from discomfort as long as we are willing to address whatever it is that has caused us discomfort in the first place. But that almost always requires a good bit of hard work on our part – something else we try to avoid! So instead, we turn to the easier solution of masking or ignoring our discomfort along with the underlying dysfunction causing the discomfort, and that is a problem.
If you’ve ever had physical therapy to recover from an injury or surgery, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “no pain, no gain” along with the truth underlying that simple but powerful phrase. Repairing damage caused by injury or disease is hard, painful work, whether we’re talking about physical, emotional or spiritual damage.
In last weekend’s sermon we explored the powerful gift of faith that we’ve been given and the ways that we are called to actively use our faith to walk through difficult times, including the hard and painful work of healing that which is broken or damaged by injury, disease, or neglect in our bodies, our relationships, and society. I think we need to begin to understand the holy and important role that discomfort plays in our work of healing that which is broken, rather than viewing it as something to be ignored, masked or quickly alleviated.
Comfort can be a gift, but only when it is the fruit of the hard work of facing and healing the broken and diseased parts of our lives. True comfort, the kind that Jesus offers us when he says “come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) is only found through the gift of faith that has been planted deep within us. And so my prayer is that when we experience discomfort, we will see it as the holy gift it is, and then through faith, begin to do the hard work of healing whatever is broken in our lives, and in the world around us.
See you in church.