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

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Overwheming Sorrow

First, I recalled myself holding Marmar’s hand with Papa’s arm around my shoulder, his hand on my back as we crossed a tarmac towards the plane.

Fallen Sparrow and I were talking on the phone when I read his and Pentimento’s posts on Lot’s wife. Suddenly I broke into tears. FS has the gift of remaining patiently silent and did so as I fumbled for tissues and then told him that reading the two posts, was causing me to flashback to my early childhood in Brazil. I said, “It never occurred to me until this moment how much my mother lost in leaving her home.”

I recalled Marmar and myself being escorted from Grandpére’s office to another room. We passed Ti Eduardo’s body. Ti lay face up on the tile floor. Blood covered the top of his head and his chest. His beautiful, brown eyes stared, sightless at the ceiling. He did not move. I wanted to stop, to take in this sight, to touch him, to understand this incomprehensible thing.

Marmar spoke one word: “Walk.” I walked, my hand in hers, incomprehensibility left behind. Alone with her in a sitting room, Marmar pulled me close as she sank into a chair. I stood between her knees, her arms circling me. She broke down crying and groaning. More incomprehensibility. I did not cry.

When Papa came in he held us both. Marmar cried. Perhaps Papa did as well. I don’t remember. I did not cry. At some point I needed to use a toilet. We were not allowed to leave the room. Papa emptied a vase and held it for me. I wet my sock. I did not speak – only pointed at the sock and cried. Papa removed the wet thing and dried my foot with his handkerchief. He held me and Marmar again as we cried: she for her father and brother, I because of my wet sock.

When the angel of the Lord commands Lot and his family not to look back, I do not think he is creating a supreme test to determine whether they will be faithful. Instead, he seeks to protect them from a horror they cannot encompass. He warns them so as to save them from the becoming enmeshed in the destruction that befalls the cities on the plain.

Some things are too big for us. Some losses so great, they will destroy us. Some experiences so fraught with destruction, that only by God’s grace can we avoid being engulfed too. We have been created to shut down emotionally, to be unable to take in that which is overwhelming. But that very act of shutting down can become destruction if there is no awakening: when Lot’s wife looks back, what she sees is so overwhelming she becomes “pure, distilled tear-stuff, the physical manifestation of sorrow." But for the grace of God, beginning with Marmar’s command to “walk” which pulled me away from the devastation, to a wet sock – a comprehensible reason to cry, to this day when that devastation has taught me to forgive, that fate could have been mine.

On the feast day of “St. Maximilian Kolbe" I found myself realizing that he too faced the overwhelming. Being condemned to starvation in a lightless bunker drove one man to desperation; Fr. Kolbe offered to take his place. How look into the face of those who have lost their humanity so badly that they can starve ten men to death? How face such utter sorrow? God gave him immense grace at that moment and during the ensuing days.

I think I can better understand the apostles who fled the crucifixion. In all history, that must have been the greatest horror anyone could have faced. How look on the sight of the man you know to be God being tortured and killed by those he came to save? How survive that? Sanity would drive them to hide, to believe they had perhaps been mistaken. But those who stayed – his Mother, John, the other Mary - those who bore it without being utterly destroyed, we know they received tremendous grace, were given the ability to see him die without becoming “the physical manifestation of sorrow.”

His grace is real, overcomes the most devastating sorrow. None of the ugliness in this world, not even the horrors men release on each other can impede the grace that is ours through Christ. And perhaps, one day we will meet Lot’s wife whose utter sorrow will have been transformed into absolute joy by the sight of His overwhelming love.

(I intended this post for last week but Humira, a fancy name for chemo in a cuter package, combined w/ methotrexate (another type of chemo) leaves me more exhausted so it takes me longer to get things done. Que sera!)


Brobdingnagian said...

I'd love to be able to agree with you about Lot, except that God's treatment of Lot's wife makes no sense if we see it your way.

God told them not to look back. Lot's wife looks over her shoulder, and is turned into a pillar of salt.

It's a tough one to read. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded, in the words of C.S. Lewis, speaking of Aslan, that "he's not a tame lion".


Drusilla said...

Certainly there is the question of why but I am not exploring whether Lot's wife deserved to become a pillar of salt, only that one look at the destruction God was raining down onto the cities on the plain was so horrendously overwhelming, she did she become a pillar of salt - not that she is punished but rather, she is overwhelmed. She stands as a monument to sorrow - to what sorrow can do with out the grace we are given in Christ.

As for wht she deservered, we aren't told. We only know that God sent his angels to save her as well as Lot and warned them all not to look back but she looked and became salt. It is excruciatingly painful to accept that relationship with God is often neither nice nor, as you say, tame.

Mahsheed said...


This is a beautiful reflection! God's grace is a mysterious thing I can't begin to comprehend it.

I'm so sorry to hear of your ill health, I will pray for you. Keep us posted.

God bless you,

Anonymous said...

For sure, as your post points to, the Lord's grace is what stops us from being overwhelmed by the sorrows of this world. It seems to me, having mused your post to within a hairsbreadth of all 4 of my cylinders conking out, that the Lord took this greater burden of sorrow onto Himself, and made it less breaking a burden for us, even before the Incarnation as well as since then (--and on the Cross, of what was that great cry shortly after commending His spirit made?), with or without our knowing the Lord as He has been revealed to and by the Church, for who could look upon a massacre or tragedy at any time, not least of all in the O.T., and not least of all in today's terrorist carnage, ethnicides, earthquakes, floods, Holocaust, world-wide abortion, and ever be able to approximate living human life again without the mercy of His grace taking up some great part of it?

Dawn Eden said...

I just read this. What an affecting post. Thank you so much for sharing this. I hope you write a book one day.

Re Lot's wife, I think of the pillar of salt as being like a body made of tears. If we look back, sadness becomes the formative aspect of our identity. That's not what God wants for us.