What To Do When Life Serves Nothing But Pain
She was very quiet; didn’t say much but she followed every word and tracked the lesson even though it was in the language she had only begun to learn after she arrived at the refugee camp. The other students obviously respected her opinions and accepted her as one of them. Seeing her interact with the others you would think she had been there all her life and never faced a problem.
The regular teacher remarked she was exceptionally bright and a very quick and motivated learner. Dr. Simon’s wife had offered her a place to stay since she had no family. Her gratitude showed in the way she willingly helped with chores and with minding the children. She never complained, was up early, worked late and still made it to class ready to learn. Gradually her story came out.
Barely twenty years old, she had seen enough sorrow for multiple life-times! Raised in the northern part of Myanmar, her father was a small time farmer. He’d worked his land carefully giving a simple but adequate lifestyle covering their basic necessities. She had attended school proving early her aptitude for learning.
Their troubles began when the government troops moved into that area to systematically destroy the villages and scatter the people. Someone planted a land-mine in their fields and unfortunately her father found it. It was bitter luck that took away his right arm forcing him to go to the hospital where infection completed the mine’s mission.
The family struggled to eke out an existence but the soldiers systematically burned their crops along with their home. Reduced to hiding in the forest they lived in fear of being found. As the patrols got less frequent they began to hope they might survive even though the prospects were bleak without any food or shelter.
Her little brother didn’t make it to the cover of the trees one afternoon when a surprise patrol came by. He tried his best to run but the hail of bullets took him down. From her hiding place she could see that he was badly hurt but still alive. He had the courage and sense to lie quietly, hoping the patrollers would leave him for dead. She waited as long as they were looking and as they moved away she darted from the trees to drag his little body back to the hiding place. It was a mistake. The patrol swooped back and she had no choice but to surrender. She won’t recall how many soldiers lined up to rape her nor if it was the same few soldiers or others who joined in. What she does recall is coming to in a ditch. She remembers the blood and the intense pain. The pain got worse when she crawled into the trees to see the bodies of the women and children. All of her direct family died that day. She lay there, stunned and lifeless.
The hands that gripped her arm were rough and dirty. She felt the upward force of being lifted and her mind whimpered, “Not more, please!” She heard a woman’s voice and forced her eyes to focus on her old neighbor. They were amazed she was still alive. The next period was a blur in her mind but she recalls hiding deeper in the forest for a few days before beginning the slow, dangerous trek to the border. It was a long way and not everyone made it. She wanted to give up and die too as she struggled with excruciating pain, longing for something to eat. Others in the group had stories just like hers and everyone struggled with grief, anger and fear. For some the anger turned to rage while others grew ever more silent and resolved. As they got closer to the border some of the younger men and older boys abandoned the group – they went back to join the rebel army; what else did they have to live for? The survivors made it to the border and slipped over the river at night to the relative safety of the camp.
Her story can be heard in many different locales – other have suffered terrible loss like she did - but not so many have approached life with the determination to forgive and get over her loss so she can make the world a better place for others.
Some in her camp were working on the path of retaliation and self-defense. Were they wrong? Until we’ve suffered loss like theirs we can’t know but adding hurt to hurt, evil to evil is never a great idea.
Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek!” but it takes guts to do that, to be vulnerable and to risk yet more hurt. And what if the innocent suffer because others turned their cheek? For many it is easier to launch into bitterness and retaliation, to hurt the hurter and to lose their pain in doing something to even the score. They see it as protecting their own – especially the weak and vulnerable; as vital to push back against the injustice done to them. Not having been in their shoes, it is unfair for us to judge them.
But our student showed rare grit and determination. She was able to focus the emotional energy from her colossal losses into action that helped others and built for a better future.
She had deep regrets with waves of anguish and pain at her loss but she chose to sidestep the option of hatred; she looked away from her past. The past brought her where she was and although she had rich memories from her early years she also had unbearable pain in the loss of a way of life and of her close family.
But that was the past. The present involved learning and using the opportunities she had to prepare for a better future. Others sat and wiled away their time but not her. She wanted to learn all she could and to develop all the skills she would need for her new future. Some day, some time she would have a new life away from the camp. She would have new opportunities and new freedom – not yet, but she wasn’t going to wait until it happened; getting ready now meant she could jump into action when the time came. Her faith told her to hope for a better day, to leave alone the questions she couldn’t answer, and to focus on being ready. It wasn’t escapism, nor did she shut out the pain by refusing to think about it. No, it was that she chose to not dwell on the past, she wouldn’t let the past destroy her present or her future.
How would we handle the experiences that life dealt to her? Would we too be a pillar of hope in the midst of hopelessness?
- The Inevitability of Pain (betterlifecoaching.wordpress.com)
Posted on March 15, 2012, in Active faith, Self-awareness and tagged bitterness, forgiveness, grief loss and bereavement, Hope, human-rights, Jesus, Pain, Pain Management, rape. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.