* * I am dedicating this blogpost to my dear cousin Evy who passed away this week and will be buried today. The world has lost a wonderful human being, but she will never be gone from my heart.
I received a few helpful correctives to my thinking this past week. It is very easy for me during times of physical and mental stress to begin to strategize and control and over-think the process. You might know the drill – take the right vitamins, read the right book, do the right exercises, see the right doctors, eat the right food… and the list goes on. I figure if I do it right, I can control my health and well being.
In math I teach my students that the = sign means “the same as” 2 + 2 is the same as 4. Well, outside the math class, the equation does not always compute so literally. This past school year, I took vitamins galore, ran miles and miles, ate countless spinach salads, read fantastic books, but ill health still visited. Strategic efforts do not always = well being. Certainly exercise and healthy eating are not bad ideas, but I’ve been reminded lately that they are not a guarantee that all will be well.
Last week, in one of his daily email meditations, Richard Rohr was writing about memory and not being too quick to heal all of our bad memories. If we bypass them too quickly in an effort to avoid pain, we do not feel them deeply or learn what they have to teach us. “God calls us to suffer (read “allow”) the whole of reality, to remember the good along with the bad. Perhaps this is the course of the journey toward new sight and new hope.”
I drove to work that morning, taking some deep breaths, trying to focus on “what is” rather than “what I wanted”. There’s a classic play on the word “nowhere” and it came to mind. I had been assuming that God was nowhere in my experience, but God was nudging me gently, suggesting that maybe I’ve been reading the word wrong. God was helping me reconfigure it, reminding me that God was not “nowhere” but “now here”, right in this experience. Not after I got better, but within it.
Rohr went on to write that we sometimes gather all our energy around a hurt, around what is wrong. How much better to remember, like the prophet Baruch said, “Rejoice that you yourself are remembered by God.” (Baruch 5:5) (Baruch is part of the Bible’s Apocrypha.) No matter what is going on, God is still with us, loving us more than we can imagine.
As if to drive this point home, I also received a mentoring letter from our pastor Paul. It was as if Rohr and Paul had been talking. “God is not the source of your pain,” wrote Paul. “God doesn’t necessarily take your difficulties away, but just like your dearest friends, God loves you, suffers with you and teaches you through them.” Another deep breath.
And so my prayers lately have been, “God, help me discern Your best hope for me amid whatever I’m experiencing. Use the “here” of my life to draw me closer to You, to understand others better and to learn to see You clearly beyond my small situation.”
I have sensed a re-gathering of my energy and a re-kindling of hope. A hope that is not based on how I’m feeling, but comes from being reminded that whether God takes me through my difficulties or around them, I am guaranteed of God’s love, the love of my community and a significant life. As Stephen Fearing sings in one of my current favorite recordings, “Turn the key from hope to trust.”