I want to be a Shock Absorber!

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It was hot. I was at the end of my frazzled rope. We had been in airports since 6:30 AM, waiting and boarding and sardining and waiting and lining-up and disembarking. And now, after waiting another ETERNITY, the flight attendant was telling us that our 30-minute connecting flight from Memphis to Nashville had been canceled and the airline had arranged a four-hour BUS ride instead to get us home that night…”Wait! What?? They can’t do that to us! NO! This isn’t right! It isn't fair!” And that was the beginning of a rant that was laid on the airline personnel who were helping us passengers at the luggage carousel. (Charlie stood by, slack-jawed.) I was angry at the unfairness, really the injustice, of it all. I was mad about the inconvenience and uncomfortable with the feeling of not being in control of the situation. If I had been any younger I probably would have laid on the floor crying, kicking my feet and pounding my fists into the carpet.

I felt bad about it later. But remember, I was tired and hungry and had important things going on in my life and had paid for a PLANE ticket and… I could go on. I had some pretty good reasons for venting, don’t you think?


You see, as I’ve gotten older I have, to put it nicely, “found my voice.” And I can be quite volcanic when I get angry—always justifiably so, of course. It’s liberating, in a way. And I have built quite a sturdy edifice to my righteous anger. That just feels safer than being out there unprotected from all the unfairness and unjustified meanness thrown my way. But I also don’t like this tank-armored me very much. Before I was kind, now I’m just nice. And niceness is pretty thin-skinned like a balloon. And like a balloon, it’s prone to blow up under pressure. So here I am, like a steel balloon.


One day a few years ago I was listening to a sermon by pastor and author Timothy Keller when I heard a phrase that hit this Statue of My Liberty like a wrecking ball. Have you ever had something jump out at you and then keep coming back again and again into your conscious sphere — almost as if it were meant for you and you were meant for it? It’s like the moment you hear it it is hardwired into the neurons and synapsis of your brain for all time? Well, that happened to me when Tim Keller said, “Absorb more pain that you inflict.” I can’t remember the context, or if the sentence was longer, or if there were any other qualifiers, or why it was said, or how. I just remember those words. “Absorb more pain than you inflict.”

It kept coming back to me, like a better angel. They’re angry, eyes flashing…absorb it, answer calmly. They are rude and ignoring…can you be gentle and attentive in return? They are assuming unjustly from some surface appearance…try to resist defensive maneuvers and remain open. Their abuse is like daggers to my heart…walk away before you throw your own javelin and address it later in peace. I want them to understand the hurt they have caused me…can you leave that to God and seek to forgive them because they really don’t know what they're doing?

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That phrase, absorb more pain than you inflict, has rolled over and over in my head. It has been sitting beside my bathroom mirror on a yellow sheet of tablet paper, printed out carefully on a day its significance hit me in a particularly poignant way. I think about it almost every day.


So what does that mean in daily life? Absorb more pain than you inflict? One of the definitions for this word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “to receive without recoil or echo.” I think it means that at moments of conflict, disagreement, sorrow, uncertainty, lack of control or anything else that give us pain or discomfort— we have a choice. Absorb it or inflict it. Take it in or return it with a vengeance. Soften the response or harden it. Improvise or echo. Love one another or return evil for evil.


 As I understand it, shock absorbers in a car are not just for comfort but also to protect the innards of the automobile. So that it can keep running smoothy. Otherwise, it might break apart! Go careening across the road, killing and maiming all in its wake and throwing its passengers out into the ditch to bleed to death. There certainly is a place to take the car apart and repair it but that’s in the safety of a shop and through the skill of the Mechanic. We in this country are in an extremely volatile social milieu right now. It’s as if we are traveling down a really bumpy road and we need a lot of really good shock absorbers right now.

So…let’s get on the road & take some shocks, baby!

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