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.