Extracurricular suffering? Have you ever heard of such a thing? Isn’t suffering the enemy, or one of the footprints of evil at hand?
The word ‘suffered’ is in the Apostles’ Creed: ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate’; and in the Nicene Creed: ‘suffered death’. The Passion narratives in all four gospels never speak of Jesus making an effort to avoid suffering. In John’s gospel Jesus clearly embraces suffering as part of His glorification. Jesus is different. Holy Week is different (especially this year).
How do you and I react to the suffering present everywhere now, including in our homes? In the poem below, Dr. Frost muses amid suffering.
I THINK OF THE FIELDS by Gerhard Frost
If only I could be done
with this extracurricular suffering
I’ve been experiencing lately,
I could get on with my teaching
or at least begin my preparation!
But then there’s the absolution.
I heard it anew the other day.
I sat and drank it in.
New meanings leaped out at me;
new healings happened deep within.
I think of the fields in spring,
how tempered steel roughs up the matted soil.
I ponder the cruel kindness
of the harrow, the disc, and the plow,
and I know that without these
there would only be waste
of warm spring rains.
Can it be that suffering isn’t extracurricular at all?
Is it, rather, a part of that core curriculum
of birth and life and death?
Gerhard Frost (1909 – 1988) was a Lutheran Pastor, a college and seminary professor, and a poet. A student and friend of his described him this way, “…beloved by all who knew him. He had a Lincolnesque combination of strength and quietness about him.” That is an apt description of Gerhard Frost when I met him in 1978. As a guest speaker, he read his poetry at my internship congregation, Immanuel Lutheran Church, in Wadena, MN.