Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Love's Greatest Teacher

Suffering is Love's greatest teacher. We do not always appreciate the lessons that Suffering wishes to impart to us. Often we reject her lessons because we do not understand the intention behind them and become bitter instead.  However, if we are wise enough to welcome Suffering into our lives and to seek to understand her meaning, she reveals to us the shortcuts to true and lasting Love.

It is Suffering that teaches us to empathize with others.  It is one thing to hear about the plight of the homeless or to see them standing on the corner begging. It is another thing to have been homeless, to have slept on a sidewalk in the heat of the summer or lived out of a car because you had nowhere else to go. To hear about it or to see it is not the same as understanding it.  It is one thing to read about hunger or to see someone who is begging for food.  It is another thing to go without food for days because you have no way to get food.  Suffering makes the pain of others real to us in a way that reading or seeing or hearing about the problems of others does not and motivates us to act on the behalf of another.

It is Suffering that teaches us gratitude for the good things of the world.  Suffering deprives us of some good so that, when at last the lesson is learned and the suffering is over, we can rejoice at its return.  The person who has lived six months in darkness has a deep and abiding gratitude for the warmth and light of the sun.  The person who has experienced hunger is grateful for food.  The person who knows what it is to go without a home is grateful for shelter.  The person who lives in prolonged pain is grateful when at last the suffering is relieved.  The sick person is grateful to be alive when at last they are healed.  Gratitude is the key to joy, but it is Suffering who first teaches us to be grateful.

It is Suffering who is our earliest teacher in what is good for us and what is not. Hunger pains teach us the importance of eating. Heartaches teach us to be careful with our relationships.  Sickness reminds us to slow down and appreciate life.  Mourning for others reminds us of the limited time we have here on Earth, and the importance of making the most of our lives.

It takes courage to embrace Suffering. Her lessons are difficult, but she has great patience.  She will stay on one lesson for as long as it takes for us to learn it. If you've been rejecting suffering in your life, today's a good day to stop and consider what lesson you are being asked to learn.  You might be surprised at the growth you'll experience in a very short time under her careful tutelage.

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