O’Conner is anything but sentimental when it comes to her Christian faith. Hers is a faith that started early in life and was formed in the context of personal loss and physical suffering. Her father died when she was a teen and she would die at 39 of lupus, the same disease that took her father. For Flannery, faith was not generated through a life of ease as much as frustration. Doubt was not an enemy and pain was preferable to no feeling at all.
When I made my First Communion I was six and it seemed as natural to me and about as startling as brushing my teeth. Having been a Protestant, you may have the feeling that you must feel you believe; perhaps feeling belief is not always an illusion but I imagine it is most of the time; but I can understand the feeling of pain on going to Communion and it seems a more reliable feeling than joy. – The Habit of Being
I’m struck by the fact that in our formation as Christian people our pain can become a part of what makes us more like Christ. Christians have always understood this as illustrated by our identification with Christ crucified. When was the last time we accepted light and momentary pain as a means of discipleship? Can the truly debilitating experiences of life serve a similar purpose?