Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Suffering – Transfiguration

In writing about suffering, I’ve followed an outline of sorts and am at the issue of suffering and God, the place to which all meditations on suffering must lead us. Part 1 dealt with risk. Part 2 will explore the issue of community. Part 3 will be an exploration of creatures and creation – which is what we are and is also the crux of the problem of suffering. But of course, this isn’t under my direction or control: as hard as it is for me to admit it publicly, I am God’s to do with as he pleases and there is absolutely nothing I want more, nothing better for which I can hope. And, every so often, I discover an unexpected addition to my planned outline. Today is such an occasion (though I do think it is integral to the problem of suffering and God).

This past week, I had planned to see my spiritual director, a Dominican priest, for confession on Thursday. At almost the last minute, he had a conflict and asked to reschedule to Friday. On Friday, I arrived at the appointed time, rang the bell to the parish house and waited. No answer. I rang again and again. Still no answer. I looked into the church, saw the pastor praying and decided not to disturb him.

Now I don’t own a cell phone though I flirt with the idea of getting one. But since I need a great deal of time alone to think and listen and, since cell phones seem to make their owners always available, I have avoided them like the plague. I often walk until I’ve come to the end of all my distractions and feats of ledger domain and then, in the stillness, when I’m not yet physically exhausted but certainly tired of filling time, I discover I can’t stave off God’s voice any longer. It is then that I realize, once I attend to what he is saying, that I have been very, very silly for trying to avoid him. Cell phones seem to interrupt that process of being alone with myself until I am willing to be alone with God. And for me, that would not be good. (Though if the time comes when a cell phone is important in my life, I will get one – I’m actually very technologically savvy.) All of which is to explain why, when my spiritual director didn’t come to the door and wasn’t in the church, I went home before I called him. After we exchanged apologies, we scheduled a meeting for this morning before mass. That seems to be exactly what God wanted.

Confession was all about my pride, about the things I’ve held onto and not given to God. I know better and would counsel anyone to give God everything – feelings, attitudes, convictions – no matter how ugly they are. When we were children we brought our parents gifts – flowers. Often they were weeds. But if our parents were at all loving, they accepted our gifts with joy, even put them in water and gave them a central place. (A friend of mine used to bring her mother worms and her mother graciously thanked her and then put them in a jar on the windowsill. My friend didn’t realize until we discussed it, long after her mother’s death, that those worms were always gone the next morning.) We should do know less with, expect no less from our Father.

My spiritual director spoke to me about the Transfiguration and the willingness to love God open-endedly, without any restrictions – to really be his and let everything I am and have be his to do with as he pleases. After confession, while performing my penance in the church, I realized there was something else I had not given to God – the immense pain of losing my family. It became clear to me that I have held onto that pain, tended it, cared for it like a flower in my garden, saw it as a responsibility that only I could fulfill. But if I am truly to be his, then my pain must be his as well: I cannot keep this flower for myself. That hurts. It’s excruciating. My self definition has been intertwined with this particular loss: it has been central to who I am. Giving it to God is self-abandonment, excruciating self-denial. But I love him. What else could I do but give him this thing that is so precious to me?

My prayer that God would take my pain and do with it as he pleases came out with sobbing and tears and that was not surprising – at least not to me. But then there was a voice: “Are you crying? Oh no! I know you’re not crying!” Then there were arms around me, hugging me, holding me, not letting me go and that same voice asking me if I was okay, if the problem was that I needed to go back into hospital – asking what was wrong. Though my initial reaction was to tell her to leave me alone, finally, I hugged back and told her that I would explain later. What else could I do when my friend saw my heaving shoulders and tears and came to be with me?

When I offer something to God – particularly something painful, I always know that his response could be to have me continue in pain – and that’s really what I expect – that he will give me the strength to continue hurting. But sometimes, maybe even often, his response surprises me – and that’s even more painful. I was willing to carry the pain of loss through the rest of my life, willing to relinquish my request that it be healed. It didn’t occur to me that he might ask me to hurt while someone who will never be my mother, who can never be her or even much like her – someone who can never make me forget Marmar – hugs me and will not let me go. In time I will probably understand better but for now, a friend’s hug responds to my need in a way I could not have foreseen so that it’s no longer just my suffering – no longer a flower I get to nurture and keep to myself. Somehow, my suffering now belongs to the body of Christ. It ain’t just mine anymore.


melanie b said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

theMerovingian said...

Amen, Drusilla.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how you nail so much. One-in-Christ can have nothing of one's own, and that is the "great price" part of the pearl that no one speaks of, isn't it? Who'd think that a holy pearl would demand one retch and reel in sorrow unto nausea?

That's what it is to give up the last bit of independence from God, isn't it? Perhaps we don't really trust Him, not even once, until that giving. I'll be thinking about this.

You have so articulated, tho', what our little homeless friend must've gone through as she approached her 19th birthday all but orphaned, tho' not orphaned, just set aside for years, separated even from her brothers. They all would've cared, if they'd known, that she was sleeping under a railroad trestle shortly after leaving the children's home. I knew the whole time as I rubbed her back that day while she screamed at her father on the phone, that I could not make it better. Not one iota. Not even her grandmother could've made it better, and perhaps not even the mom she was dying for.. it is hard to stand by so helplessly.

Thank you for sharing here, Girl. How unbearable it must be. Thank you for loving Him, and us, so much.


forget me not said...

Musing about this, Drusilla. I'll comment later.

forget me not said...

I've been thinking about this since you posted it, but the sentiments it has provoked are having trouble taking the form of the written word. Today I received something that partially expresses my thoughts:

The Healing Touch

Touch, yes, touch, speaks the wordless words of love. We receive so much touch when we are babies and so little when we are adults. Still, in friendship touch often gives more life than words. A friend's hand stroking our back, a friend's arms resting on our shoulder, a friend's fingers wiping our tears away, a friend's lips kissing our forehead --- these are true consolation. These moments of touch are truly sacred. They restore, they reconcile, they reassure, they forgive, they heal.

Everyone who touched Jesus and everyone whom Jesus touched were healed. God's love and power went out from him (see Luke 6:19). When a friend touches us with free, nonpossessive love, it is God's incarnate love that touches us and God's power that heals us.

I think God wanted you in that moment to feel His tangible presence, and I think that moment was more about this than about your surrendering...or perhaps it is your surrendering that opened up that little space in your heart, so you could let Him do that. God is so gentle and delicate. He will never push his way in, and neither does he want us to beg or make grand sacrifices. He just asks that we give him that tiny little space...

There's more to my thoughts than this...maybe I'll post about it soon myself.

I've changed my blog service to wordpress because apparently google/blogspot host pedophile blogs. There is no way I, with my particular life experience can "cohabitate" in a space where this is knowingly going on. There's a post about it on my old and new blog. Stop by and visit, ok?

Anonymous said...

pS the quote is by Henri Nouwen


Kit-Kat said...

Everyone, pray for Drusilla. She's having a serious medical emergency and will need our prayers over the next week or so.

Kit-Kat said...

An update - she's going to be fine. It's not as bad as I was originally informed. She's not out of the woods yet so keep her in your prayers.

uncle jim said...

Prayers to continue

forget me not said...

Will be praying up a storm for her!!

Anonymous said...



forget me not said...

kit-kat, will you give us updates now and then to let us know how she's doing? And also, please tell her that we've put up a prayer network for her!