I remember when I first began learning about electricity. I was fascinated by the difference between capacitors and resistors and their impact on the flow of current in a circuit. Here were these two kinds of little tiny components, but one could store electrical energy in a way that could be discharged later, and the other transformed that energy into a different kind of energy (usually heat) and effectively lowered the voltage of the current. It seemed almost alchemical.
I was talking with someone today about what to do with the pain when someone hurts you. It seems to me that most of us, most of the time, are capacitors. If you hurt me, I may not lash out and respond in kind, particularly if there is an imbalance of power in our relationship. But like a capacitor, I am likely to store that hurt and then discharge it on some other unsuspecting victim. Woe to you, store clerk who is tired and short tempered! Look out, distracted driver who just cut me off in the square! And even worse, beware, beloved child who I allowed to stay up past your bedtime and who is now dragging his feet in the morning…
But I contend that every single time someone hurts us, we have a choice. We can always choose to be resistors instead of capacitors.
What do I mean by that? I mean that every time we are hurt, we can consciously choose not to pass it on. To let the hurt and pain die in us and be transformed into something else. Something beautiful.
“Not this hurt,” you may be thinking. “This one is too big. I can’t do it.”
And you’re right.
The bigger the pain, the more important the choice. Will you take a stand for love? Will you spend your life to be one bright light?
And no human could do this – not on our own. We aren’t strong enough for it. But I know, believe, and trust that it is possible because Jesus did it on the Cross. He is God – if He had chosen to, surely He could have had the nails fly out of the wood and lightning fly from His fingertips to destroy His executioners. But He submitted and I think in part because He wanted to show us how to do it.
Before I became Catholic, I didn’t understand the fascination with gruesome crucifixes. Why would anyone want to look at all that gore? I wondered.
Now I know.
It’s because this union, this choosing to be a resistor rather than a capacitor, is the most painful thing imaginable. And the only way to get through it without knuckling under and giving way to capacitance is to really see and understand the pain that Our Lord went through.
And then, because He was faithful, I can be also.