Suffering is a gift.
It’s difficult for us to grasp that truth in 21st century America. For us, gifts are sweaters and PlayStation 4’s, maybe colorfully wrapped under a Christmas tree. Gifts are fun. Entertaining. They give us comfort. Joy.
Suffering is none of that. We hate to suffer. We hate it when people close to us suffer.
And yet when we look, there’s sometimes a beauty to be found in the midst of suffering. A profound, real rawness that often escapes us, and that leads us to look at the world and those we love and find a staggering sense of glory.
I thought about that as I watched the documentary I’ll Push You. And even though the doc won’t be in theaters until Nov. 2 (and then for just one night), I was so moved I wanted to tell you about it now.
I’ll Push You chronicles two friends making the great pilgrimage of El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek across France and Spain.
While hundreds of thousands of people make the pilgrimage each year, not many people attempt it in a wheelchair. That’s what Justin Skeesuck—suffering from a condition similar to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease—and his best friend, Patrick Gray—did and documented here.
Most of Justin’s muscles don’t work anymore. He’s completely dependent on Pat for everything—not just pushing on for mile after mile, but to dress him and brush his teeth. We watch the journey sap Pat, both physically and emotionally. Justin struggles mightily with the sense that he’s a burden. Yes, it’s a movie about suffering.
But far more so, it’s a movie about joy—and finding that raw, honest joy in the most incredible of circumstances.
“As humans, we want independence—to do what we want to do, when we want to do it,” Justin says in the movie. “But … I’ve learned that once I’ve let that go, love can flourish, and there’s like this beauty that lies in [that]. Of course I’d like to be independent. …But I’m kind of wondering if I got that back, would my life change. Would love change. … And would I trade it for that. I’m not so sure.”
I’ll be writing more about this movie in the future, I’m sure. For now, just remember that date: Nov. 2. This is a movie worth seeing.