Tag Archives: Michael Meneses

Waiting for the pain to end

by Michael A. Meneses, Wellspring Church of SkippackMichael Meneses

It was a cold Sunday morning. It had snowed the day before, and though the church parking lot had been plowed, there were ice puddles everywhere. I was walking across the lot in a no-nonsense, got-business-to-take-care-of way when it happened: my right foot landed on a patch of ice. My foot twisted backward, facing the opposite direction as the rest of my body.

It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced. I laid there on the icy ground until someone found me and an ambulance took me away.

Yet that’s nothing compared to the pain I experienced when my brother died in January 1984. He would have turned 30 that March; I was nearly 28. How does one explain that kind of pain, the pain of a heart cut through by great loss?

Call it soul pain, a shattered heart: pitch-dark, deeply penetrating waves of grief that leave you raw and exposed. Your heart spasms and you can’t breathe. Dizzy with disbelief, you want to shout and cry out: “It can’t be! Can it? How could it? This is not real! Is it?” It’s as if your soul has swallowed some horrible, ugly truth that you want to vomit out, but you can’t.

There are other hurts: the pain of scorn or rejection. The hurt of ridicule and shame. And you, too, have been hurt in one way or another; all of us have. Indeed, many are hurting even now, as I write these words.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” I might have said, “I hurt, therefore I am.” For some, it hurts just to live. And without hope, a Comforter, something better to look forward to, how can anyone bear the pain of it all?

Yet, when it comes to suffering, the Apostle Paul, who was no stranger to the pangs of suffering, said that the sufferings of this present time are not even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us in the end. Indeed, all of creation, which suffers along with us, eagerly awaits its freedom “from its bondage to decay” when we come into the fullness of our redemption (Romans 8:18-25).

The interesting thing about suffering, and perhaps most frustrating, is this: God does not promise to prevent pain and suffering in our lives. No matter how faithful we are, or how spiritually deep we become, God gives us no guarantee that he will relieve us from suffering in this life. In fact, the very opposite may be true: growing deeper and more faithful with God may actually result in more earthly suffering. Nevertheless, God does promise to be with us as we endure suffering.

Perhaps our hurts and our ever-present sufferings fall under the category of Christ’s command to pick up the cross and follow Him. Jesus Himself was no stranger to extreme pain and suffering, having endured the sufferings of the cross. Thus, Jesus is no alien to what we feel and experience in our own earthly sufferings (Hebrews 2:18; 1 Peter 3:18). Perhaps Jesus knows more about the depths of our sufferings than we do ourselves.

Therefore, we are not to live life avoiding suffering at all cost, running from suffering at every turn, or numbing ourselves from suffering by any means, such as the use of drugs and alcohol. In many ways, we are expected to readily face the painful experiences of our lives head-on, especially the inner, emotional pain of spirit and soul, heart and mind. And while we do, we are to allow the Lord to do his work within us, to change, renew, and transform us by its means.

And so, even as we hurt and carry what seems to be unbearable pain in our lives, we remain steadfast with great expectancy. We look forward to something better. Even as we deal with what may appear to be unendurable agony, our trust, our faith, our hope, and our promise is that it will end in due time. And it will have been worth it, once we find ourselves on the other side of it.

Like Paul, Peter also encourages us with the promise and eager anticipation of final relief in the face of suffering: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 5:10-11).

Our theme for this year’s joint Conference Assembly with Eastern District Conference is “Esperando: Waiting & Hoping.”  Conference Assembly will be held November 14-15 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  

Why “walking in the way of peace” requires grace

Last spring, the Eastern District and Franconia Conference Peace and Justice Committee sent invitations to our congregations for any member, young or old, to write reflections on “Walking in the Way of Peace.” We weren’t sure what response we would receive, but we offered this as one way for people to consider and express how their experience of following Jesus in everyday life led them to reconciling conversations, or choices supporting justice for vulnerable people, or perhaps what tensions they felt in trying to live Christ’s peace. As it turned out, the best submissions did speak of struggle and uneasiness – especially the conflicted feeling of desiring the well-being and fullness of life God intends for us and all creation, and cringing in our awareness of our own part in continuing the gap between God’s dream and our present reality. Thanks be to God that we are not left alone in acknowledging the gap, but live with the Spirit within us, moving among us to create peace that eclipses human understanding! May these two honest reflections feed our common hope in the Prince of Peace, who comes to us in weakness and poverty–that the glory of the Lord would be revealed, and all people would see it together.

Michael Meneses

Why “walking in the way of peace” requires grace

by Michael A. Meneses, Wellspring Church of Skippack

People hurt people.  There is no exception.  There are a thousand and one ways in which we hurt one another.  And we’re all guilty.  We alienate and exclude, and distance ourselves; we give them the silent treatment or rudely dismiss them as inadequate and unimportant; we label and ridicule or nurture distain in our hearts for them; we assume superiority over them, we indulge in profiling and pre-judgment, we take advantage of them, manipulate, cheat, lie, and steal from them, and so-on and so-forth.  And so, many become wary, careful in relationships, afraid to get too close, fearful of vulnerability, quietly building invisible protective walls against others.

As such, given our present human condition, walking in the way of peace is contrary to our nature.  Why?  Upon eating the forbidden fruit, the human race declared war against God, as well as against each other.  Each of us in one form or another has declared ourselves a god in our own right in defiance of our Creator.  This is reflected in our power struggles with one another.  We want our own way.  When we don’t get it?  It’s fight or flight.  That’s our real human nature.

Because of this, walking in the way of peace actually begins with the honest acknowledgement that relationships are dangerous.  Conflict, disagreements and hurt, offenses-given and offenses-taken, are a regular occurrence in our day-to-day relations with others.  When relationships go awry, many find it much easier to drop the relationship (fight or flight) rather than stay committed to the way of love and its hard work of constructive engagement for peace building.  Thus, walking in the way of peace can be quite a challenge.

Furthermore, genuine peace is not merely the absence of open conflict between two parties.  For example, there can be much pain and agony between people even where there is no apparent conflict: silent hurt feelings, quiet misunderstandings, and self-righteous accusatory judgment, for example.  Real Biblical peace, Shalom, is actively concerned for one’s neighbor, for his or her fulfillment and completion, soundness and wholeness, serenity and tranquility, success and prosperity.  If two neighbors passively live side-by-side in distrust and with silent resentment toward each other, and never speak a word to each other unless necessary, there is no real shalom in that neighborhood.

Neither is walking in the way of peace a matter of becoming a doormat to avoid conflict.  Seeking wholeness, one-ness, and completeness for all, including one’s self, is a deliberate choice to stay connected and negotiate in and through conflict in order to find a harmonious solution as much as is humanly possible (Romans 12:18).  Being a deliberate intent to respect, care for, and consider the needs and interests of “the other,” while at the same time respecting one’s own needs and interests, walking in the way of peace maintains a self-integrity without fabricated self-effacement, a kind of false humility.  Avoiding conflict through disingenuous self-denial is motivated out of fear or cowardliness rather than genuine strength of character that is willing to stand for what is true, right, or good.  Such avoidance has little integrity and does little to address the actual source of conflict.

All this is not only difficult, it is next to impossible.  It takes super human strength.  It’s beyond human nature.  It therefore requires God’s grace, the work of the Holy Spirit within us, and a ready submission to Christ’s Lordship and Authority in our lives.  It requires God’s unconditional love working its way in and through us, toward others.  And though we don’t always get it right, we must always keep trying.  For it is the way God expands His Kingdom-Rule among us.