Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Love That is Gracious Gift and Solidarity

For awhile, there were few things that plunged me into the deepest darkness with more speed than the platitudes offered by people who . . . well, they offer platitudes.  That's what they do. The "God's will, better place, suffering over, God never gives you more than you can handle" folks.  Eventually, I learned not to hear.

My days now tend to be satisfying more often than not.  But sometimes I forget and take on too much, as I did this week-end.  A party Friday night.  An intense meeting Saturday morning.  And a baby shower Saturday afternoon.  The last one finally did me in, and I'm only just now getting up (mid-morning Sunday).

But as I was in and out over the course of yesterday, I read two posts that I urge you to absorb in their entirety.  The first is by Ryan Duns, S.J., a young Jesuit and aspiring theologian (and, these days, a high school religion teacher ~ in their 15 or so years of formation, Jesuits earn all kinds of degrees and engage in all kinds of occupations).  Ryan tackles one of those platitudes with depth and graciousness, urging us to recognize that "God gives us far, far more than we can handle."

He says that "when we face the Mystery of evil and suffering in our lives, the icy terror of loss and suffering, we must resist the temptation to think that this is something that God has done and commit ourselves to what God is doing. This latter insight isn’t meant to take away the pain stemming from fear or the sorrow from loss…but it is to say that we are always being offered more than we can imagine: a relationship with the God of the Resurrection, the God for whom life, and not death, is the meaning of human life."  You can read the entire post here

The other post was written by my dear friend Karen, whom I have come to know as we have both walked this terrible journey.  We don't write theological treatises about it; we live it.  Karen's daughter Katie died from cancer three and one-half years ago, and so in some ways the terrain we've covered has been quite different, one from the other.    Karen's daughter died quietly, surrounded by her loving family; my son died violently, and alone.  Karen's travels have taken her out the door of the institutional church; mine took me back to seminary.  Karen is a woman filled with grace and generosity; I am . . . not so much!  But we have both, as she says, "entered the story of Mary and Jesus."

I particularly admire her final paragraph, in which she says, "It's not what I thought Love looked like. It's not what I wanted Love to look like - I wanted Love to look like rescue. But it is Love, when you look at it from a certain angle - the love that is solidarity, understanding and union. And for that, I am grateful."  The entire piece is here.

If you are in this place where we live, or you accompany someone who is,  both of these posts are well worth your time.


  1. I got your comment late last night - our power was off for 12 hours! Am sending love and solidarity to you, and hope that you were able to go back to sleep - and shake off that awful nightmare.

    Thank you for reading, and for your friendship. You are a great gift in my life, Robin! xoxox

  2. I agree. Both articles. Just what I needed. Love that you send me such good stuff. Many, many, many thanks.
    Sweet dreams tonight.

  3. Thank you Robin. Again.

    My dear friend Kate lost her daughter last year, nearly a full year now, in a violent gun shot by the boy she was dating. Loving. Part of their family.

    As you can imagine the layers of grief, sadness and loss are immense. As with any loss, especially of our children.

    We talk alot about "I can't imagine what you're going through" and the inanity of it. As Kate says, most of us have indeed imagined just this tragic loss. And spin quickly away from it and imagine our safety from it.

    Living it is completely different from anything we might "imagine" and she has offered me a seat at her table. I am so grateful. To sit with her. To listen. To talk. To ask. To cry. To laugh even.

    Sometimes the reality of it, and the sadness of it feels too much to bear. But as you so eloquently said, one does bear it.

    There is a homily my husband recently showed me. By a man of your denomination - William Sloane Coffin, Jr. - that he gave at the funeral of his son.

    It is extraordinary. And I think you have hit it squarely on many times in your writings throughout your blogs. You can read it here

    Thank you for your open-hearted, open-handed giving.

  4. Cindy, I remember this terrible event in your community of friends.

    I love your assessment of "I can't imagine" as "we imagine our safety from it."

    I am very familiar with William Sloane Coffin's sermon. And glad to have the link; I think I'll ad it to Desert Year. Thank you.

  5. I wanted to say to your comment on my blog: yes, in a way, those terrible 10 months had mercy in them - the mercy of TIME. Time to try to adjust to living WITH death as a companion, even as we tried to find a way for her to escape it; time to surrender, day by day, to whatever presented itself, to try to bring love and comfort into those days. We had time to get over some of the shock of the possibility of her dying while she was still with us. But the pain of living without her is not eased by this.

    One more thing: you are gracious and generous, to my way of thinking. We just have different styles. xoxoxo

  6. Robin, thank you for sending me on the journey through both of those posts. I told Karen, I feel changed by what I have read, just as I feel changed by our (yours and my) friendship).

    So grateful.