Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When Things Happen

The Director of my Clinical Pastoral Education program (known as CPE ~ that training ground for pastors in which we encounter Real People in Crisis, usually in medical settings, for the purpose not so much of learning to care for them as for learning to know and care for ourselves) ( possibly a dubious enterprise, but that's another post) was fond of raising the issue of the relationship between physical and spiritual ailments, and between life crises and health.
I'm not sure what to make of the various theories about body-spirit connections. In some matters, the relationship seems obvious. In others, not so much.  I'm sure the examples are well known to you.
That said, as I ponder the book which Michelle sent to me (previous post), I find myself wondering, with ample time this week to wonder, about my own rather dramatic juxtapositions of late.  What's this journey been revealing?  What do I carry?
I started seminary nearly seven years ago, brimming with energy and optimism, and a year later my son died of suicide. 
I was called to a church after a year's wait and, in catching up on health care so that I could give my undivided attention to our official beginning together, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I was called to a new church two years later and, with a congregation taking a new and positive deep breath of hope for the future, slipped down my front steps onto a fractured ankle.
I carry a half-filled urn of ashes (we've been some places), a long and ugly scar, and now a plate and some pins.
I'm not depressed at all.  Don't read despair into these words; it's not there.  And it's not as if I could make any big changes in my life; these days I can barely hop to the bathroom.
But I am VERY curious.  Mystified.  I have young seminary classmates, and some not so young, who in the three/four years since we were in school have acquired spouses, children, first homes, major trips, and even more confidence in God than they brought with them to school.  And, ok, to be honest, my own life was pretty spectacular at 35.   And I could write a gratitude post for the last few years a mile long.
But seriously, why do all these things keep happening?  And what's with the timing?!


  1. Have to admit I've wondered the same thing myself...

    1. About you or me?

      I might have added that at 35 I had a perfectly lovely life as a sahm mom of 3, with a beautiful home and enough travel and volunteer work in church and community. The more I've gotten involved with God, the messier life has gotten.

      And I am aware that there is precedent.

  2. maybe... MAYBE...sometimes...these things happen as means of bringing us together with the people we need to encounter -- or "to have encountered" -- to do the next thing that will be offered to us to do? (a very tentative thought... about some of my own "what now" moments)

    1. I so appreciate the tentative nature of your response, CR. Of course, there have been gifts in terms of experiences and relationships. But the relentlessness has got me wondering: Have I been on the wrong track all along?

  3. These are interesting questions. I admit that when I read your post about your ankle "mishap", my first thought was sympathy for you: Wow, Robin cannot catch a break!

    (and my second thought was about your fabulous pedicure polish).

    So I applaud that you are seeking to solve the deeper puzzle in all of this.

  4. Very interesting. I think there's something to it. I had a similar sentiment during a buriel service, which generated a reflection, a portion of which follows:

    The sun shone brilliantly behind us and warmed my long-time friend and me against the chill. We followed the service, reciting from the single sheet between us, when suddenly he stepped a few feet away. Had I offended him? I soon figured that was not so. The long shadow cast by the parish house steeple behind us had crept across the lawn and overtaken him, robbing him of the sun’s warmth. He simply got out of the way to stay warm. The sharp shadow of the tower and cross now evenly separated us and was headed for me.
    That explained the shuffling occurring during the service. I calculated that before the funeral ended the cross would take me too. Unlike my friends who simply reacted to a sudden chill and sidestepped the shadow, I foresaw the inevitable and could think this through. Step away and stay warm, or accept the fate that was visiting us all.
    I chose acceptance. It swallowed me whole. Soon isolated within the darkened image of the towering cross, I was cold and alone. Is this to what the church calls us? Is this the cost of discipleship? That to serve is to part from friends and to endure discomfort so that others are comforted? Like the crawling shadow in the garden, the call appears in silence, is presented to many, is seen by a few and is accepted by even less. Stepping away is easy and sensible, for most mindless.
    Standing there in that curious place where the life and the death of our friend occupied the same space, and swallowed by a projection of Christendom forged from the heavens, the question teased: What say you?

  5. This reminds me of the Thorton Wilder play called "The Angel that Troubled the Waters." Have you read this? I first encountered it in a Brennan Manning book and found it very moving. Rather than trying to re-tell it, I'll just post this link if you're not familiar with it. It's pretty short.


    1. It's true enough, But there's that circular reasoning again.

      Why can't everyone just hop into the pool?

      Although I find myself wondering: is the pool most available to those who value it the least and will make the least advantage of the healing they've received ? Those people who say, "Thank God for answering our prayers and healing our mother," and going on their way, oblivious to the plight of all on the same hospital corridor for whom there was no healing?

      I am going to go and the original story tomorrow with the Wilder version in mind,

  6. I don't think that the decision to follow God makes your life any messier-I think that it makes it easier to handle the messes that life gives us. God's in charge-we aren't.