A Participation in Suffering

Friday night. After church. Sitting alone in my car. I could not stop the tears. Depression came over me like a wall of water—a tsunami wave. Exhausted I pulled the lever to adjust my seat and laid there, staring up at the ceiling of my car. There in the darkness, the only words God seems to whisper to me these past three years of my struggling with  gender dysphoria came to me again: I AM with you. Such puzzling, empty, infuriating words of comfort.

Then, out of nowhere a new understanding opened up in me:

This grief, my sense of having been forsaken, cut off from Joy, is but a drop of the Cup that Jesus drank down to the bitter dregs that Holy Week, two thousand years ago. I could see the Lord cry out from the depths of all the oceans in all the worlds, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?!!!!” As much as my grief seemed uncontrollable and unbearable, I imagine that his pain was something we humans can only begin to grasp as Jesus for the first time in all of existence from eternity to eternity was somehow cut off from the cosmic dance that is Father-Son-HolySpirit.

With this new understanding opening up in me, my grief seemed to find a proper channel in which it could course through, and my tears as they kept flowing seemed to find its way to join the tears of other human beings and ultimately the tears of the Human One—Jesus.

Why? Because it dawned on me what it meant for God to say to me, I AM with you: My suffering was a participation in his suffering. And this participation was bringing me into a place of intimacy with the Lord of a kind unique to suffering.

Lying in my car alone in that darkness, I remember struggling to accept this new understanding: But, I’m not a glutton for punishment. Yet,  didn’t I used to pray as a teenager the Scripture that says, 

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:10-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

That evening I couldn’t help but be in awe of him. He who somehow heals me by suffering with me on the cross, who invites me into his suffering, and there shelter me with his divine embrace. JESUS.

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