The Previous Things

What are the events and experiences that have shaped your life? There is a scene in Star Trek V that has always struck me. In the movie, Sybok, Spock’s unknown older brother(?), discovers an ability to take away people’s “pain”, their painful life experiences that formed them and shaped them. It turns out Dr. McCoy had a father who pleads to him from his deathbed, enduring terminal illness, to let him die. Sybok takes away the pain of this experience, and McCoy feels immediately relieved. It resembles a religious experience. When Sybok comes to Kirk, Kirk refuses, saying that his pain makes him what he is. “I need my pain.” While the rest of the movie may be best left to history, that one scene is thought-provoking.

Do we live today on the basis of our life’s pain and suffering? Does our pain (of things and events we have suffered) make us who we are? There is a generation, the Greatest Generation, that is defined by the shared experiences of the Great Depression and World War II. We understand the Boomers, the children of that generation, influenced by the affluence of the 50’s and 60’s, but also by the threat of the Cold War and imminent nuclear conflict. And each generation in turn is shaped by their common experiences. I think my generation, the Gen X’ers, have been shaped by the rise of explosion of information through TV, radio and computers, but also by 9-11. My life would be different if I hadn’t live through them.

But my life has also been shaped by the work and acts of others upon me, throughout various ministries, life experiences, encounters I’ve had with others. I am who I am today because of what I’ve lived through, and I cannot sit here an say I can separate who “I Am” from what “I’ve learned”. My life, as others, has been a process of maturity. I’ve grown from what I was, and I think that is a good thing. I’ve become more skilled, gained more knowledge, and become more mature in my thinking. That is all based my life experiences. I have been shaped both from what I’ve done and what has been done to me.

So the final question is this: Who will I be when all the previous things have passed away? I don’t know how much this bothers you, but it concerns me. There will be no more death, no more crying, no more pain. Sounds amazing, right? But how much of who you are was shaped by experiences with death, grief, crying and pain? What happens when God “takes away your pain”?

Now you may be sitting there and thinking, who wouldn’t want God to do this? This sounds wonderful. And this is why we go back to Kirk’s statement earlier. “I need my pain.” Why does Kirk, or any of us need that pain? Pain is an effective teacher. Pain teaches us the consequences of our actions. When we have placed our trust in the wrong person, or when we have loved and lost, showing us the value of love. Pain was even the instructor at the feet of our Lord, when we realized the pain he went through to save us from our sins, the pain our sin causes in us and our desire to be free from it’s guilt. The threat of eternal Pain in hell prompted many to resist the Devil and follow Christ. In this life, we need pain, because many of us will not act unless pain is applied, whether it be financial pain, emotional pain, intellectual pain, or physical pain. Pain is a powerful motivator. So if God takes away our pain, what does that mean?

It means that in heaven, pain will no longer be the motivator that we needed here on earth. Pain will no longer be needed to motivate us to follow Him, or to rectify our wrongs. Because all temptation will be gone. All sin will be gone. The motivation we have in Heaven will be the love of God. We’ve had just a taste of it here, through the life and work of Jesus Christ. But there, we will be exposed fully to God’s love, His power, His compassion for us that will revealed to us, “there we shall see face to face.” You cannot comprehend what the full impact of that love will be, but I know this: we will look back upon the pain and the suffering, and we will be grateful, for these things led us here into His presence. These things schooled us and directed us to the foot of the cross and the Throne of Grace. We did need them. But there we will need them no longer. And what a sight we shall see, surrounded by glory, the presence of the One who has loved us all along. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. Because we will see Jesus. And He will reach down to us, and he will take his finger, and touch us, wiping the tears from our eyes. He will say, “You’re home now. Come see the place I have prepared for you.”

Lord Jesus, I can’t wait to see you. But each and every day, I learn a little bit more about You. Your face is the first one I want to see when I get there. Please show Me Your path through this world that I may follow, so that when my life’s work is done, I will be ready. Lord Jesus, I love You. May every day be Yours. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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