God of All Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-7, English Standard Version (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
One morning Olivia, my then 8 year-old daughter, and I had our weekly breakfast before school. I asked her what her favorite thing about school was and she said she loved writing. This was no surprise as our house - and especially my home office work area - is routinely scattered with written snippets, clippings of stories, colored drawings, and collages meant to provide supportive illustration, not to mention the tools of the 8 year-old author tradecraft: scissors, pens, pencils, transparent tape and, usually, a bag of barbecue chips.
When I asked her if she knew what makes a good story her eyes answered with inquisitive excitement, "No, but tell me now!"
I told her, "You have to have someone who wants something greatly but something blocks her from getting it. You write about that."
She looked at me quizzically and asked, "Well, do they get what they want?" I said, "I'm not sure, but that already sounds like a good story."
So, we decided to create a story right there on the spot. Olivia suggested there was a little girl who wanted a mansion more than anything in the world. When I asked her what was stopping her from getting this awesome place to live, she said she didn't know. I said, "What if every morning, the girl packs her backpack with barbecue chips and every other necessity and launches out on a journey to find a mansion?" Olivia loved this idea of parentless adventure. Note: I didn't say there wouldn't be parents but she felt this made the story way better, for some reason.
Then we talked about how every day, when she took her first step onto the front porch readying herself for the adventure, there was a big, ugly, three-eyed monster who tricked her into abandoning her search. We called it a Mansion-Blocker-Monster and this Mansion-Blocker-Monster would always have some suggestion or diversion that would cause our heroine to abandon her mission. One day, it might be a suggestion to watch a movie together instead; another day, it might be, "Hey, let's go get some ice cream!" This went on for quite some time until one day, the girl figured out this particular Manson-Blocker-Monster was allergic to sulfurous odors.
I think you may know where this story is going considering one of our co-author's age. Yes, I'm talking about me. I love a good gaseous emission story!
Of course, this meant our heroine had a plan and that very evening she consumed at least 15 hard-boiled eggs and went to bed with the worst tummy ache she could ever remember. She kept telling herself, "This is so going to be worth it when I find my manson."
You should have seen the smirks and giggles when Olivia and I talked about how the next morning in our story the heroine stepped out onto that front porch and told the Manson-Blocker-Monster to, "Get out of my way! TODAY, I'm going to find my mansion and there is nothing you can do about it!"
She then proceeded, in quite artful form with very athletic bodily positioning, to trigger an allergic reaction sneezing attack in that dastardly Mansion-Blocker-Monster the likes of which the world has never seen. She was able to casually walk right by the Mansion-Blocker-Monster that morning.
So, what does all this have to do with a reflection on Lent?
Well, Paul, in our passage for today's reflection above, continues with the same theme from our post yesterday of suffering, patience and endurance. We patiently endure the suffering for our hope is in this new King, ruling over this new Kingdom. So, we share in each others' sufferings so we can share in each others' comfort. This season of Lent gives us time to reflect on the ways in each of our lives we suffer, areas where we patiently endure, like Jesus, the cross we know is coming.
This little story Olivia and I had a ton of fun creating this morning actually has quite a bit to do with today's reflection when I thought about it afterwards.
So, our heroine went out into unknown worlds, where she actually did find her mansion, and at first, she LOVED it! She spent lots of time playing in the cavernous rooms, jumping on the beds and running about not caring about the messes she was making. But, she started to get lonely since there was no one to play with, no one opposing her, no one protecting her. Surprisingly, she started to miss her Mansion-Blocker-Monster - friend?
Seriously? He was a friend? How can that be? He made me suffer. He blocked my every move.
In the end, our heroine realized, in spite of all he had put her through, friendship is what she most wanted.
Sometimes what we really want, once we get it, reveals what we really really want.
Suffering is often seen as a monster blocking our path to what we really desire. Paul sees suffering differently in this section of scripture. So did Jesus, who, for the joy set before him endured the cross.
What is your biggest desire right now?
Is there a 'desire under your desire' animating this conscious desire? Is there some deeper, more profound, perhaps divinely inspired longing you can sense?
What role is suffering playing in your story? Is suffering preventing you from settling for a lesser desire? Is it honing and bringing into sharper focus your truer desire under the surface? Is it cultivating endurance? Is it protecting you in some way?
Perhaps spend some time today reflecting on this passage of scripture with these questions in mind.