No Fear. Just Pain.

By Eugene C. Scott

Not the actual truck

The Nissan truck with the No Fear off-road package sat in the drive. Big knobby tires, six-inch lift package, fancy rims, dual exhaust.“Semper Fi,” said a sticker in the back window. We had driven from Winter Park to Loveland, CO on a fabulous fall morning to look at a used truck for sale. Necessitated by the untimely demise of my old, faithfulPathfinder.

As I climbed out of our car, I put my negotiating face on. It was a cool truck.

We walked across the road and into a wall of pain. A hurt, like a bad dream that won’t let you wake up, hung over the house. The owner of the truck, an ex-Marine with tattoos covering both arms and his neck, came out and shook hands. A big silver cross hung from his neck over his New Orleans Saints football jersey.

We introduced ourselves. He stood at an oblique in the middle of the street a good distance away from the truck.

“It’s a nice truck. You’re selling it so you can refurbish your son’s Mustang?” I said trying to pierce the awkward silence that surrounded him. I had spoken to him on the phone previously.

“Yeah.” His big frame sagged and he seemed to get smaller right there in front of me. He may have even stopped breathing. “It’s what he would have wanted.”

I could see the sorrow etched into his tough face. He didn’t look at the truck.

Long, agonizing seconds later he said, “He died a couple of months ago.”

There it was. The source of the pain.

“I’m sorry.” I touched his elbow. “What happened?”

“He killed himself.” Three words, flat, declarative, harsh, like someone had hit me in the face. He spat the next three words.

“Over a girlfriend.”

There in the middle of the street our worlds became a bubble, no bright blue fall day, no truck, no air. No fear. Just pain.

I turned to him and we talked. I told him as a pastor I had worked with suicidal kids, how tragic it was that those with so much to live for despaired so deeply. He turned toward me, opened his heart just a crack. More pain poured out. Pointing to a house two doors down he said a pastor lived there and he had been spending time with him. “You gotta trust God,” he said.

I nodded. “You can’t walk through this alone.”

I was relieved he had someone of faith to talk to and that God was part of the conversation. I lived several hundred miles–a world–away. My heart ached but I could not be his pastor, his counselor, or even his friend. The silence and the pain swooped back down.

“Can I drive it?” I asked pointing to the big, gray truck.

“Keys are in it.”

My wife, Dee Dee, and I climbed in. It was the kind of truck I had dreamed of in high school. It didn’t so much drive as it ate the road. It didn’t purr but rumbled. But the cab was clean, almost sterile, no signs of anything personal. The on board computer read, “0 miles,” indicating how far we could drive before we ran out of fuel.

Who lets potential buyers drive a truck that may run out of gas? I wondered as we pulled back into his driveway.

“Nice truck. It’s almost out of gas,” I said as I handed him the key.

“I haven’t driven it in a couple of months,” he said. That’s when I began to understand. I had not seen him come close to the truck. It had something to do with his son’s death.

My heart has been broken and I’ve been praying for him and his elderly mother and father and his other son ever since.

Les Avery, senior pastor of St James Presbyterian Church in Littleton, CO, where I served as a youth pastor in the 80s, used to end almost every worship service by saying, “Wrap your arm around yourself or of someone near you because, if you scratch beneath the surface of any life, you’ll find pain.”

It’s a poignant reminder. Sometimes you don’t even need to scratch. It comes gushing out.

Once again, I’ve been reminded to look at the grumpy, harried woman in the post office with kinder eyes. The waiter, the store clerk, the high school kid walking home from school alone.

They all carry pain–at least as deep as my own–if not deeper.

I’m not going to sermonize, tell you to be nice, “Co-exist,” “give peace a chance,” or “tolerate” each other. Bumper sticker philosophy and theology is such ineffective crap.

All of us know how cruel and insensitive and self-centered we are. We all know we shouldn’t be.

Maybe what we don’t as often remember is that God does not have to scratch beneath the surface of our lives to discover the pain. He sees all and knows all. And he weeps. But his tears are not empty.

By the first century AD, the Romans had tortured and crucified nearly 2000 people. Poverty, injustice, hunger, death, disease, and pain few of us know the depth of today racked the world Jesus lived in. So, what did God do? He let his Son be killed on the cruelest torture device yet known and had Jesus experience all the pain known to man.

Think of it. By having Jesus die on a device designed to induce maximum pain, God gave us a way to transform our pain into hope. God not only knows our pain. He redeems it.

The silver cross around that ex-Marine’s neck was not mere jewelry. It was his sign of hope for life, a reminder of how much God loves him and his son. Of how God had indeed wrapped his arms around us in the ultimate act of love.

Eugene C. Scott is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. He did not buy the No Fear truck, not because of the tragedy it represented, and certainly not because he was too old or not cool enough for it, but because his wife said it was not very practical.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “No Fear. Just Pain.

  1. Well said. The Les Avery quote is fascinating, that says a lot about the culture of that church.

    • We used to tease him about how he said it every Sunday. But Les is a man of powerful kindness and deep grace. I learned so much from him. Back then I was too arrogant to see it. I went to St James’ 50 year celebration. It was amazing to hear and see what God has done through that congregation. And how it shaped me? Well, now I know.

  2. elna

    Do you sometimes feel that you just want to hide…because everywhere you turn there is hurt ? The truth about Jesus is that He cried and His Spirit in us allows us to see the hurt and cry as well. Blessed are those that mourn

  3. Georgie-ann

    A very tragic story, Eugene,…certainly my condolences go out to the man and his family,…prayers for their healing,…

    My paternal grandmother never got over my father’s suicide (which was presumably due in part to some health complications). As a result, though I could see her, I never got to know her in this life.

    Pain causes us to withdraw, to self-protect, perhaps to reflect, to think, to hold on to a memory rather than proceed into an “empty” future. Facing/walking directly into a sudden void is not something humans have the energy and capacity for all on their own. The mind would rather be numb than conscious of all the questions, whys, wherefores, and torments. We become exquisitely sensitive to the slightest experience or thought or imagination of pain. Loss of something precious causes us to re-evaluate all our priorities in life. We only wish we could be lost in denial, but even that type of faux-relief / “illusory escape mechanism” simply mocks at us, as we cringe under the ever-present, streaming tortures of memories, thoughts and emotions, assailing us 24 hours a day,…the “what ifs,”…the “how bad could it have been?”,…”how MUCH did you hurt?”,…”why, why, why?”,…”didn’t you love me?”,…”didn’t I love you enough?”,…”wasn’t I worth it?”,…”I miss you sooo much,”…”but there’s nothing I can do,”…”there’s no way to change this now,”…”there’s no way to know you anymore,”… … … … “Oh, God,…help me,” … … … “God?”,…

    Well, I’ve certainly “been there,”…

    I feel very lucky (blessed) that I’ve survived as well as I have. Many thanks go to supportive family & friends, and eventually God “picked up the whole tab.” I could go into many truly truly amazing details — “from then to now” — including the extremely recent “discovery” of a whole branch of my amazing family on my paternal grandmother’s side, (this thanks to the internet!), that had been a complete “void” to me until a few weeks ago. So, now I can say that not only has God healed a void in my heart, and replaced a void with Himself spiritually in my life,…but NOW, He has even filled that void with real human beings that are even truly my very own relatives!! (The shared similarities are quite amazing!)

    This particular journey, for me, easily “took a whole lifetime,”…almost 60 years, in fact. The going, to begin with, was very very slow, painful, and frustrated, on the emotional side,…but eventually with glimmers of hope, many of which were actually “supernatural,” and just by “hanging in there” — (sheer endurance through what has often presented as obstacles and much lack of understanding) — I can say at this point that God has brought me through it all to a really better place, that I could never have imagined or reached on my own.

    This is why I always advocate “trusting God” through thick and thin, tragedy and problems. Our “hold on God,” our faith (even when we don’t know we have any!) or think it is just “blind faith,” is the KEY to much better things than we could really ever believe possible. Our struggle IS “doing something,” it IS accomplishing something, even though we don’t really know what. I had one hand on God and one hand on my deceased father, with myself in the middle emotionally, for years on end. The blessings and rewards and restorations have come. Even though it seems that it “took a long time,” once here, it is SO worth it! It does seem a bit like a fore-taste of heaven! I was quite willing to wait, but who argues with a blessing here & now?

    Hebrews 6:11,12

    11 “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

    James 5:11 “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

    Psalm 30:5 ” … His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.”

    2 Timothy 2:12 “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. … ”

    Revelation 7:17 ” … for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

    Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

    Amen. (-:

    • I’m sorry for your pain and loss. I knew it had to have been there because of your depth. May God continue to heal and comfort you and to use your healing to heal others.

      • Georgie-ann

        “You gotta trust God.”

        Amazing how so much reality can fit into a few words.

        “In my day” we were much less programmed mentally to always have or need or expect some kind of “exact” answer or explanation for “everything” that ever happened, and then feeling all the more helpless and lost if our mind “failed us” by not being able to cover all the bases. When we looked at the sky, it was pretty much ALL one big unreachable mystery drawing our minds out into a timeless eternity, with more unspoken questions than answers. Big Science hadn’t gotten us to the moon and beyond yet, and airplanes were much more rare and still a pretty big thrill!

        Sometimes the way I feel about hearing the incessant proud and self-important scientific “newsy” reports of this or that tiny chemical element being a surprise “discovery” to scientists in the atmosphere of some distant space body, is much the same as the way I feel about “litter” on the highway in a beautifully scenic spot. It eventually becomes annoying, like mental clutter absorbing and co-opting/demanding one’s attention. These, no doubt, are interesting details to scientists, and for textbooks — maybe. But for ordinary mortal man, whose “natural religious experience” includes experiencing and accepting a unique personal “smallness” and awe in the mysterious framework of a much larger, transcendent and “unknowable” cosmos, it becomes a boastful intrusion. We’re now in the position of having “way too many answers,” but we don’t even know, or have forgotten, what are the right questions. But “Oh, how proud and self-satisfied (on the surface) we have become!”,…(the sad deeper truth often being one of inner poverty of spirit and heart).

        “Ironic, isn’t it?” (Romans 1:22 “Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves].”) And, once again, man continues to prove that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

        (-:

        Peace. … “You gotta trust God.” …

        Too many of us are trying to walk a tight-rope of man’s making, an arrogant path of “survival without God.” It doesn’t really work. Fortunately, God has a way of understanding and forgiving and continually reaching out to us anyway. He really does love us and has healing and restoration “in His wings.”

        Malachi 4:1-6 [The Great Day of God] (hugely excerpted)
        1 “For behold, the day is coming, …

        2 “But to you who fear My name
        The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
        With healing in His wings; …

        6 “And he will turn
        The hearts of the fathers to the children,
        And the hearts of the children to their fathers … .”

        Amen, and so be it.

  4. Georgie-ann

    Btw, Eugene,…thanks for your words,…I sort of left out that the experience of the vastness of the universe had a kind of “comforting feeling” to the smallness of “man,”…there was an awesome sense of “something” larger and wiser, of which we were an integral part, in all of that “great beyond somewhere-ness,”… perhaps that is why when we finally hear/learn about God, it touches a chord already deep within us,…we recognize something we’ve already known,…

    When many other things have failed, quiet times in the presence of this great “natural” cosmos, has not only been calming, but has also brought answers and connections that are very soul-sustaining,…

    Another btw,…last Christmas, for an open mic I enjoy attending, I re-wrote some different words to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the tune of which Iove,…they are seasonal, but speak to the issue of healing human hurts,…if you would like, I could write the words here for you,…(I don’t know myself if that’s appropriate,…)

    ‘course, they’re only good when sung to the great music!

    (-:

  5. Georgie-ann

    (grumble grumble) edit: love

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