Knowing the crucifixion story with its depiction of profound suffering and ultimate release, I wanted to share a personal lesson from it.
I was raised in the Protestant church so my childhood memories are rich with its iconography, bible stories, and the ambiance of the church itself. To this day, I enjoy an admiration for churches, especially the architectural beauty and deep silence within them.
I am not religious. By this I mean my orientation to the mystery of life is secular as I acknowledge my ignorance about the ultimate questions. But that does not mean I don’t experience the wonder of existence and cannot learn, enjoy, and revere wise teachings. In fact, it allows me the freedom to learn from them all. I think it’s unfortunate that the teachings of Jesus are rejected by many atheists solely due to the religious setting in which they are presented.
For me, the crucifixion and resurrection story contains a very important and powerful message. That it’s possible to enter a journey of suffering and return to living well. The idea that we can pass through overwhelming pain, tragedy, evil, and misery, and we can rise from it to a better life than before is an inspirational idea.
The story plays out with a depiction of suffering that is overwhelming in its intensity. Christ is bound, beaten, whipped, and humiliated. He is rejected by masses of people, betrayed by friends, made to carry the instrument of his death through the streets. Finally, he is nailed to it and left to die. Suffering has rarely been depicted so vividly and with such emotional power. This is the background for one of the most uplifting messages of all time. Suffering, purification, and release.
The resurrection story makes Christianity unique. It is not like the eastern concept of reincarnation. Christ doesn’t reincarnate, he actually reverses death itself. This is a potent image and is the core of the teaching that we can suffer to the point of giving up and be purified by it, and return from it. Purification means to attain new understanding.
This idea can lend needed inner strength to moments of sorrow. The sense that one can endure a hardship and come out of it better than before, with new knowledge, with understanding, and with compassion for others enduring something similar is a powerful idea. Not only has one been able to cope with the pain, which itself becomes a source of inner strength, now there is the potential for understanding and compassion for someone else dealing similar circumstances.
We don’t always remember this lesson when needed. And yes, sometimes the suffering lasts a longer than we wish. The imperfection of human beings also complicates matters, so we can be slow to learn. But once in a while, it is helpful to remember that we can arise from suffering with deeper understanding of each other’s struggle and maybe, just maybe be more accepting of ourselves and each other.