September 29, 2015 Matt Pennock

Prologue

I’d like to introduce to you a little story about my life.

This story may not be the most conventional story of trial and triumph that you’ve ever read, but I feel a sense of obligation to share it with my peers, my neighbors, my brothers and sisters, and anyone else who is blessed enough to understand the English language. They often say that religious notions and spiritual pursuits are fashioned out of fear. Everyone in the world of humans is searching for answers to the fears we all have. We’re afraid of other people, afraid of the future, afraid of the unknown, and maybe worst of all, afraid of ourselves.

But, why are we afraid? Because these things pain us. And pain doesn’t make any sense. People, the future, the unknown, our own self-image—they all have a way of paining us. And, though pleasure may be found out there, statistically it would seem that the pain far outweighs the pleasure for many of us. It often seems that pain will always find you, and pleasure must be diligently worked for, yet is still unguaranteed. So the solution, as it seems to many, is to trust no one and avoid strangers, create your own destiny and pursue it even if at the expense of others, form thoughtful explanations of the invisible and unknown and worship them, and avoid responsibility and blame everyone else for your difficulties in life.

Suffering is prolonged pain. But, why is there pain? The sharp, quickly-over kinds of pain are usually preferred over the lingering torturous pains that don’t seem to know time. Better to just rip the bandage right off your skin as swiftly as possible than to tear it off slowly bit by bit. Just get it over with! Pain is hard to understand but it has occurred to me that perhaps we were meant to bleed—to feel pain. Initially no, but I would venture to guess that as part of our banishment from Eden, God intentionally reduced us to very thin-skinned and brittle creatures, weak as paper. What did He mean to say to us by doing this?

I was raised in church. All throughout they said I was chosen, loved, adopted, and being re-made by a higher being. That is a life-altering idea. And I was the type—a concrete thinker born to take risks—that was going to put that idea to the test. A reject and a loner, I had no idea I would be led down so perilous a path where I would end up completely broke, homeless, jobless, carless, dejected, eschewed, stressed, depressed, heart broken, in debt, in the hospital, reviled, robbed, mugged, sabotaged, manipulated, used, and ready to well…just die.

For the better part of my life a single quote from a guy named Ugo Bassi has forged me in ways that no other has:

Measure your life by loss instead of gain; not by wine drunk but by wine poured forth. Love’s strength is in love’s sacrifice. He who suffers most, has most to give.

We will reap in due season if we do not give up. Like the grapes that must be tread in order to produce wine, so it is with those who are chosen.  And so you shall see how this has worked out in my life.