Worst. Semester. Ever.
I signed up for a course called Christian Living, and was hoping to get a good professor. I’d heard great things about Professor Joy, “One of the most pleasant people to be around,” they said. Professor Grace also had a good rep, “He gives his students all kinds of things that they don’t even deserve. Unbelievable.”
I had high hopes as I sat in the desk on the first day of class, taping my fingers, waiting for my mysterious professor to arrive. In she walked, uncomfortably late, wearing black shiny heels that would have made me scream for a podiatrist. She wore a spiky choke collar necklace to accent her scarlet dress.
“My name is Professor Pain,” she explained, “I’ll be teaching your course this semester.”
“Oh no.” Groans erupted from around the room. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Students shifted in their seats nervously and some of them got up and walked out the door.
Her syllabus seemed reasonable enough. There were a few books to read including The Problem of Pain, along with other texts. Mainly though, we were just supposed to keep a journal as we lived our lives, paying attention to where we felt pain and where we felt the presence of God.
Time passed quickly as time does and suddenly I found myself alone in her office during finals week giving my oral exam. We sat across from each other on hard wooden chairs, her eyes locked onto mine.
“So,” she said, leaning into me, “What did you learn?”
I leaned back in my chair, wanting to choose my words carefully before I spoke. I reflected on all the times I had fallen: backwards, forwards, in public, at home, needing ice, and x-rays, and compassion. I had lifted my body up each time after I had stumbled while my soul remained defeated on the ground.
I thought about the morning I woke up to discover I could hardly take another step because it felt like something was stabbing me in the heel.
I thought about the pain of fatigue, and loneliness, and disappointment, while I sat on my couch, pondering singleness.
I thought about how much I wanted to get out of pain whenever I was in it. I leaned forward, stared Professor Pain in the face and said,
“You are relentless.”
Pain cocked her head back in a laugh. “Tell me more,” she said with a smile.
“No, seriously,” I said, suddenly at ease, “You’re worse than Facebook notifications and texting combined.”
“What can I say?” she replied, throwing up her hands. “I want more than office hours and email exchanges…. I prefer to walk with my students while they learn.”
She paused just then, leaning even deeper into me with a penetrating gaze, “I didn’t ask if you liked me as an instructor, most students don’t. I want to know what you learned in Christian Living. What did you learn about God?”
The words of C.S. Lewis fell from my lips: "We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
The room fell silent.
“I really want to be held by God.” As I began to speak, tears filled my eyes and my voice began to quake. “I want to be close to Him, and of course, I want to be away from pain. It hurts.”
Professor Pain nodded her head knowingly, urging me forward.
“Those mornings when I was in pain, that’s when I really cried out to God, that’s when I found it in my heart to confess, I really need you. I felt close to God. I felt His comfort. It was in the most painful moments where I realized that when I walk with pain, God is walking with me too--