You will not suffer long?
I was riding in the car and had a deep need to hear a song. It was a Saturday morning, and I was off to run a couple of errands. It had been an unusual week in that I had also been off work dealing with personal issues… (can you say colonoscopy****). The last two days had been consumed with the needed technicalities of that sort of thing: liquid diet, drinking the “cleanse,” … feeling the cleanse! Then getting there early and waiting … waiting … waiting; and then being rushed back, interviewed, IVs, DRUGS … unconsciousness, and then post-procedure silliness where I’m told I encouraged my wife to go buy something for a half a million dollars. I will deny that happened; you can’t hold me responsible. If it was said, it was my evil twin!
Point of order: This trip through my mind is strongly based in the fact that I have been a Christian for more than 46 years and that truth has shaped me. If that is not your experience, or your faith, I pray that it will still be of supportive value to you.
So again, as I said, it was a Saturday morning, and I was running around doing important stuff. This song just popped up in my mind, so I asked Siri to serve it up. For those interested, older than 55, and knowledgeable in the early days of Contemporary Christian music, it was “Never Should Have Left You” by Sweet Comfort Band. [SCB was an early pop R&B rock jazz fusion band with some incredible musicians, led by vocalist Bryan Duncan — highly worth taking a listen to some cuts]. Why that song was circulating in the recently drug-addled part of my brain, I have no idea. Siri served it up, and I sang along with the power ballad. It was one of the early “crossover” Christian songs that spoke of relational love in a way that could be interpreted as between God and man or between lovers.
Having satisfied that mental emotional itch, I was thinking, “What should I listen to next?” But Siri had already decided what I should hear, and it was clearly early Contemporary Christian Power Ballads. Wayne Watson’s “Friend of a Wounded Heart” began to play. Now that song deserves a chapter all by itself as it has consoled me so many times in my life that I have lost count. I think you get my drift. These songs were taking me down an emotional path that I often try to avoid. When songs like these begin to play, they immediately energize memories that are explosively embedded in your soul and evoke visceral reactions that are linked to those memories.
There is a whole area of psychology and neuroscience partnered with sleep research which informs us that memories associated with strong emotions are deeply embedded within us. They are reinforced during REM sleep where meaningless stuff is tossed out of the brain stores, and these strongly emotive “engrams” (hypothetical changes in neural tissue) are encoded into our neural cells. (REM sleep is a stage of sleep that occurs intermittently during the night characterized by rapid eye movement, dreaming, and changing heart rates.) It is a way of prioritizing the millions of bits of data that is thrown at us daily. Our limbic system takes these objective observations and grades them by their emotional content and values, assigning relative value as to permanence of storage and accessibility of recall. That emotional valuation brings both joy and sorrow.
Okay, I made it through that song and then here comes Bryan Duncan again with “Love You With My Life.” This is a summarized musical (very R&B) recitation of Jesus’ words after His resurrection emphasizing that all He had gone through was because HE loved us with HIS life — both figuratively and literally. Many may not like the setting of the song; it is a definite R&B LOVE song from Jesus to us. But it is also not an easy song. He is saying He is leaving but will remain with us “in Spirit.”
I love this song. Again, many times when I have felt alone, this song has reminded me: that is a lie. But this time, the line that drove deep into me was, “You will not suffer long, For I have suffered for you, I love you with My Life.”
I should tell you that I was listening to this song as I walked back into the house — and at that same time, this is what I saw on our photo screen. This picture of Robert was when he was in second grade, still early in the path of his long illness journey, before some serious regression. I must also tell you, a torrent of overwhelming emotions washed over me instantly. I felt deep loss, not being able to hug him. I felt a spike of anger, almost saying, “What do you mean I won’t suffer long?” There was a feeling of “How could you let him suffer SO LONG?” mixed with “Why did You take him from me so soon?” I felt crazy thankfulness that Robert was no longer suffering as I believed he was now rejoicing in praise and worship with a glorified body with Christ. The tears flowed down my face because I sensed in my heart that God somehow felt the pain I felt.
Does any of this make sense? Yes and no. Emotions don’t have to make sense; they just are. It is our soul’s attempt to interpret and endure events and situations that don’t have an obvious resolution. I hope you are trying to analyze the theology of the feelings I was having, because it is Theology — searching for God’s way in the midst of my own reality; but not Theology in the way academic study of man’s relationship to God is delineated. Life is just life.
I often tell my Residents that patients don’t read medical textbooks, so don’t limit your assessments to those rigid parameters. We all have been there. Those tears I cried felt like suffering. But the thankfulness that quickly emerged immediately mixed those tears in with the realization of how blessed I had been to have known Robert — really known him. And I realized that maybe what Jesus was saying by Loving us with HIS life — not just saying that giving up His life that we could have eternal life was His mission, but also that living among us and giving us His Spirit to walk with us IN the suffering — was what this was all about.
I am forever grateful to know in my heart that my emotions make me human. I choose to see you as a complex person who also has emotions that color your perspectives with nuance and meaning. There are events, times, and songs that will trigger you to take complex internal journeys that often will then be expressed outwardly in ways that may be misinterpreted because I can’t feel what you feel and will see you through the lens of my own emotional journey. Those of us on this path can help many around us to not become trapped by their emotions but recognize that these emotions can add precious color to our lives and relationships if we channel them and don’t allow them to control us.
SO … Siri, thanks for helping me recognize what my soul was grieving; that though the cry of my heart was against the loss of that precious life leaving me, I am not alone. I can recognize that sense of loss as an acknowledgement of how valuable and how special Robert truly was, and how truly blessed I was to have known him. My love and memories are deeply embedded and will not go away. The joy that is found there is worth all the tears that I shed. I am ready for more.
Listening Library: "Love You With My Life" (Bryan Duncan)
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” (Isaiah 49:15-16a NIV)
Love You With My Life
I'll be back some day And with Me I will take you So do not be afraid Only watch and pray And wait for My return I've done what I must do My work here is completed It's all been done for you Believe what I have stated I will give you peace Through all your tribulations Until I come again
CHORUS Please know that I love you I'll stay by your side If only now in spirit I'll still be your guide You will not suffer long For I have suffered for you I love you with My life I'll prepare a place Where we can live together I'll meet you face to face To share our new forever Don't let your love grow cold And I will not allow What's more than you can bear
Love You With My Life lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group