We've only just begun, as a society, to understand the impact of violence on the brain, and upon the loved ones of the victim. Even after thousands of years of experience, or collecting data, people still know so little about how insidious the suffering is of those who have experienced sexual abuse, and the suffering of those who love the victims. Some brave souls venture out to tell the world, but even then, they minimize and avoid some of the 'dark places' where the hurt leaves them unable to articulate. I think of RA Dickey's brave book, even while applying Avinoam Sapir's SCAN technique to see that he has only scratched the surface of suffering.
We hope for justice, even as we study deception, knowing that the end of violence is death.
Here, on Easter, 2013, is the story of someone who suffered much.
He had, as a young man, likely obtained a good portion in this world. Married in his social status, he had a good education and a bright future ahead of him where he would prosper.
He also knew a good opportunity when he saw it.
There was a group who were hated as they sought to overturn the culture and had the audacity to challenge his own status. As tensions grew, eventually violence exploded and like all violence, there are those who seize the opportunity to make a name for themselves. Some do so with ferocity, while others do it with cleverness, or cunning planning, efficient killing and good book keeping.
He was the latter.
He didn't get his own hands dirty with blood, but was efficient at ridding out these 'rats' who were taken to meeting in some of the most unseemly places.
His status grew and his nation showed its appreciation of his ability to root out the enemy, and saw his 'courage' to stand forth during the executions.
One execution, in particular, stood out among the rest. He, himself, signed the death order for a young man who stood bravely during death, not flinching as he had thought he might.
It unnerved him.
It stayed with him, robbing him of appetite and sleep. The young man seemed to almost haunt him in his dreams, until one day, while walking along the road, leading a troop to root out another enemy band, he came upon a day that would forever change his life.
A voice said, "Why do you persecute me?"
The man did not know who the voice's owner was; those around him heard something, but it was unintelligible to him.
He was struck blind, bereft of his powerful logic and sense, and had to call upon his enemy to help him.
From there, he was no longer called "Saul", but "Paul."
For years, Paul labored incessantly, for the good of others, but as it is with hatred, those of whom he once hated, he embraced, while those who once applauded him, hated him.
How bad was the hatred?
Some made death threats against him. In fact, as the hatred against him grew, so did the death threats, to the point where it was no longer whispered in shadows. In one town where he went, men bound themselves to a sacred oath, important in their culture, that they would not eat food until they had killed him.
Eventually, Paul was cornered and from the strong arm of hatred, in a growing confident crowd, came a small rock that struck him across the eye. He clutched his eye, now bleeding, as the crowd saw him, and were filled with rage, and soon more rocks came and more rocks.
As police arrived, the crowd dispersed and the man, severely wounded, had his wounds tended to, but his eye, most likely, would not only never be the same, but left him visibly marred, ugly to look at, scarred.
Yet, in spite of this horrific event, he continued his work, going from town to town, demanding repentance of wayward living and forgiveness for those who sought it.
The hatred, however, followed him as well. He was careful not to take anything from anyone his own hands did not earn, so even though it was within his right to do so, he instead sewed tents for sale, using the money to pay for his food and lodging, a common worker, who once had come from the upper class. He felt honored to do so, but rumors began that he was ruining the income of others and one day the crowd, mixed audience at best, began to turn, and like what had happened years earlier, happened again. He was brutally attacked, again, with rocks, terribly injured and discouraged.
He likely suffered nightmares and flashbacks, and had to live with the sense of hyper vigilance. At one point, he was so broken, hungry, tired and beat up, that he despaired even of his own life. The violence would unnerve any of us.
Then came the third and final stoning. This time his enemies would make certain that the broken, now much older appearing man, would not survive, and they planted complainers in the audience who lied about Paul's work, until the rage was so bad that the stones rained down upon him.
This time, the crowd left satisfied as his apparent lifeless body lay unattended to. They left believing that they had silenced him, finally.
Paul survived this third stoning and as the months passed, some of his old strength returned to his body, and he returned to his message of love.
Depression, melancholy, despair, accompanied him, but so did joy, refreshment and drive. Looking far older than his years, through the things that he suffered, one of his closest friends turned on him, accusing him of seeking to be front and center, the very place that got Paul almost killed. In one last violent outburst from a crowd psychology of rage, he was almost pulled in two, saved by the police, but under arrest for causing a riot.
He was placed, and forgotten, in a cold, cement style jail cell, likely beneath the ground, with rain and sewer water seeping in. He was hungry, cold, terribly lonely, and under the sentence of death which would be, in this culture, be-heading.
He offered a prayer in this most dire of circumstance.
He likely thought of his early life, in the upper class, wearing the finest clothing, making good money, early retirement, comfort, and the prestige of his fellow man; all things he had long abandoned in life. Here he sat, heavy iron shakles cutting into his frail ankles, shivering from the cold, and lonely beyond belief.
What did he pray for?
I have long thought about what I would have prayed for in his shoes. Perhaps I would have prayed for a pair of shoes for my cold feet? Perhaps I would have prayed to have my friends raise bail money, or a judge to set me free, or just a warm meal. How I would have longed for the comfort of a baked potato or some form of protein! I would have prayed for my freedom, to see my wife, my children, the faces of those I loved!
I would have prayed for myself.
What did Paul pray for?
"To know Him and the power of the resurrection..."
Even as I read his words, I feel tears welling up in me. I don't understand his words, but I want to.
"To know Him and the power of the resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings..."
The "fellowship of His sufferings"? I know that when I celebrate with my loved ones, it brings us closer, but it is when I join in to the suffering of someone I love, I become much, much closer to my loved one. People that rejoice together are close, but people who suffer together are closer. It reminds me of Abraham, climbing a mountain as an old man, for 3 days, with the young man, Isaac, by his side, looking over at Isaac, each time, as if his heart would break...
being conformed to His death, if somehow I may arrive to the resuurection of the dead."
I am selfish. I think I would have prayed for that warm meal, that warm blanket, my bail, my release...I would have prayed fervently for just a small dose of comfort; Tylenol to ease my fever from the chills and shaking...anything.
I don't understand Paul.
I don't understand him, but I would like to.
I often wonder what people think of as they contemplate their own mortality. We are all going to die one day, this is not something that our status, abilities, or money can change. The older I get the more I think of it.
I read recently on Facebook the expression about being given the chance to live life over again. The point of the poem, or the saying, is that if I had to live life over again, I would not change a thing. Life, including my mistakes, has made me who I am today.
If I were given the chance to live my life over again, I'd take back every wayward hurtful word that ever proceeded from my mouth. I'd be a better son to my parents, a better student to my teachers, and seek to have helped others in times I did not. I have lots of regret, under the sun, and even though their are other purposes above the sun, I don't see them. I'd rather go back and not have pained others than pridefully boast I did it "my" way. My way wasn't always in the best interest of others.
Why didn't Paul pray for a blanket?
Why do I fret over mortgage payments, heating costs, and feeding... Clancy?
|eats 4lbs a day|
Why didn't Paul pray for his freedom?
I'll have to think about it. In the meanwhile:
I'm grateful for truth, and know that justice doesn't sleep, even when we think it does.