I’ve been thinking about painful memories today, when we return to a physical place where pain has occurred. Initially most of us with these memories chose, for obvious reasons, to avoid those places. I have witnessed that in churches, where persons who had previously been heavily invested in church-life become involved in a serious conflict. Thereafter these persons will avoid that church, often any church, for some time. The memories are painful, the physical place of that church just brings all those memories back to life. Often in time this person will find their home in another church, church is such a source of life that time brings some healing, and the different physical surroundings makes the new experience fresh and less problematic.

But then comes funerals and some of these persons pained by memories will eventually return to the home church to attend a funeral for a dear friend. Watching them at the funeral you can see first-hand the struggle to be present for the friend and her/his family while at the same time acknowledging the hurt that remains. Usually the time in the Hall, after the funeral, is where the healing becomes more evident. I watch persons currently involved in the church tentatively approaching their old friends with warm and familiar greetings. These interactions do bring healing.

In my own context this feeling is different, the place is far away, the people now largely have passed on, and I have little desire to return to the specific place. I frankly don’t know how I would respond to such a greeting. Oddly, I feel largely responsible for the events that led to the conflict that pained me so. I was determined not to be one of those who blamed everyone for the pain I endured, I looked deep within to see my own responsibility for this conflict and there I found a lot to dwell on. I’ve worked hard to adjust those parts of self that made that conflict come to pass and I am strangely indebted to that conflict for the person that emerged. I am happy to be who I am and know that without that pain I would not have got there.

Having said this I make no pronouncements about pain and enduring value to self. Much, much of the pain we endure has no value and it is rare to find these “silver linings” in such pain. My own journey was unique and I know this. Still I think it good for me to know all this, a humbling experience that led to much growth.

Still returning to that place remains problematic. While I take the lion’s share of responsibility for the conflict that occurred I do not think others involved learned anything about their conduct or responses. That being so returning to that place, to those persons, would only leave me feeling like a new person with others who would arrogantly take credit for my change without any of the mercy and compassion necessarily to partner in the spirit of reconciliation. Even when one has done a lot of hard work on one’s self one does not need to hear those who used a sledgehammer when soft leather gloves would work just as well say, “so glad our efforts worked!”

So time and prayer moves on…