Through full of pain
by You Have My Word
I was sitting at a coffee shop – mid Sunday afternoon throwing back copious amounts of coffee in an attempt to wake my weekend brain up enough to do some constructive work. Poised with my fingers hovering just above the keyboard (much more than they were ever touching the keyboard), earphones in testing the substance of a new album I’d acquired, I noticed a young man at the table next to me.
Dark shaggy hair, just long enough to brush across his eyebrows but not so long as to entertain the “I just woke up” look. He had a face that insinuated mischief and darting eyes that contradicted his attempt to look cool, calm and collected slouch in a wooden slatted outdoor chair. He dressed well – black etnies, good jeans by anyone’s standards, a fitted but not-too-tight black shirt and a black blazer – not on, but hung casually over the back of his chair. A not quite five o’clock shadow, earphones in drowning out distraction as I was trying to do, about as many coffee cups in front of him as I had in front of me and a tattoo along the outside of his arm.
“Though full of pain” it read. I managed to read it without looking like I was staring. It sounded familiar so I Googled the phrase to be sure I wasn’t crazy (as if) and discovered it was in fact from a John Milton poem – Paradise Lost. The full quote reads as this: “And that must end us, that must be our cure: / To be no more. Sad cure! For who would lose, / Though full of pain, this intellectual being, / Those thoughts that wander through eternity, / To perish, rather, swallowed up and lost / In the wide womb of uncreated night / Devoid of sense and motion?”
I’m a big fan of poetry – that goes without saying. I spent a good long time wondering whether or not I would ask him about it. Does he like Milton’s work? What is he studying? What does he do? What does that tattoo mean to him? It really fascinated me, but I also didn’t want to be that weird person who asked too many questions to someone I’ve never met. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.
Quite a while later, two young guys walked out of the shop – I had seen them earlier, invested in a rich discussion of the Word of God and cults and testimonies that had a sure foundation and they prayed before they ate and looked earnest about their opinions. Without any hesitation the one sat down at the same table that “dark and mysterious” was sitting at. The other perched himself at a table far away enough to avoid being involved but still too close not to be rendered awkward.
A most peculiar interaction unfolded. New guy mentioned that he had noticed the tattoos on “dark and mysterious”. I couldn’t hear properly but it was something about freedom. I took my earphones out to eavesdrop more effectively. New guy said “I bet that’s a long story.” “Dark and mysterious” didn’t give much of an agreement to that statement but entertained this stranger’s initiation nonetheless. New guy then went on to ask about the tattoo that I had noticed – “Though full of pain”. He said that he had read it as “Through full of pain” which, let’s be honest, is just bad sentence structure but I could see where he was going.
New guy said he had just got a word from God saying that although “dark and mysterious” has gone through a lot of pain and it hasn’t been easy, that He wants to change that to “Through full of pain”. New guy said that God wants to use him powerfully and that the pain hasn’t been for nothing. New guy then asked if that meant anything to him and gave “dark and mysterious” a church location where he could find him if he wanted to talk more, at which point I stopped listening. I wish I could have seen inside his mind for just a minute. As soon as new guy left, “dark and mysterious” whipped out his phone and preceded to text someone with a particularly amused grin.
I do wonder though if those words meant anything to him. I was also very aware of how two different people could approach the same thing so differently. I’m not sure I would have had the guts to talk to him about either – John Milton or the gospel. I do know though, that for whatever reason, he caught the attention of both of us. The tattoo, no matter which way you read it, was defiant; for that, I wish him well.