If you’ve followed my blog for the past two years, you will be familiar with Wendell Berry. His Mad Farmer poems have brought such life to my soul (these two years especially). So it’s somewhat surprising that I haven’t posted one of his poems until today during National Poetry Month. However, as I flipped through my copy of The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, stopping to read some of the over two dozen book darts I have marking favorite poems and passages, “The Way of Pain” became the obvious choice for Good Friday. As you also know, I’ve been enjoying reading through Malcolm Guite’s collection of poems for Lent through Easter, and his sonnets for this holy week have been a wonderful source for meditation. But I chose Berry’s four part poem for the way he links what parents feel with Abraham’s sacrifice and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, yielding a deeper, more poignant appreciation of each, and a more profound understanding of the way, not only of pain, but of life.
The Way of Pain by Wendell Berry
I. For parents, the only way is hard. We who give life give pain. There is no help. Yet we who give pain give love; by pain we learn the extremity of love. 2. I read of Abraham's sacrifice the Voice required of him, so that he led to the altar and the knife his only son. The beloved life was spared that time, but not the pain. It was the pain that was required. 3. I read of Christ crucified, the only begotten Son sacrificed to flesh and time and all our woe. He died and rose, but who does not tremble for his pain, his loneliness, and the darkness of the sixth hour? Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving Him up as lost, no Easter morning comes. 4. And then I slept, and dreamed the life of my only son was required of me, and I must bring him to the edge of pain, not knowing why. I woke, and yet that pain was true. It brought his life to the full in me. I bore him suffering, with love like the sun, too bright, unsparing, whole.
Source: The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 1998)