For the final day of 2011 I am reaching way back in the archives to July 2009, to what is probably the most important thing I’ve ever written, at least on a personal level. I didn’t set out to write a manifesto, just to clear my head, when I wrote “Life is Not Ended, Just Changed”.
“All the wickedness in this world that man might work or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal in the sea.” —William Langland
Earlier this week there was a terrible tragedy that resulted in the loss of two family members. We’re shattered and praying, and I’m trying to fill parts of my days with other things in order not be overwhelmed by what we could never possibly understand.
In lieu of dwelling on all that I can’t understand, I have been spending some time with what I do understand. I understand that our tragedy is even more stark because it casts it’s shadow over the blinding brilliance of our many blessings of love. I understand that year after year as we have gathered for Christmas Eve, for summer picnics, for weddings, birthdays, and visits, bonds of love have strengthened between us. These bonds weave into a web that lifts us all when we fall and supports us when we can’t stand. With a piece of our web missing I feel broken, but I take comfort in knowing that our remnant can carry the lost together in a web of prayer and love.
I understand that even after a month of gloomy weather, I wake every morning with a new chance to see the sun. I understand that when we gather for another cousin’s wedding later in the week, we reaffirm that love rises, that futures are possible even in great darkness, and that it is worthy to persevere with new life always as our goal.
I understand that life changes, that it’s silly to think that things last forever, and that clutching at blessings, standing very still and hoping that nothing will be altered, will ultimately fail. Perhaps the best practice is simply to develop habits of surviving that allow us all to live with dignity and virtue even through changes and grief, continuing in the paths of our ancestors and of those we love.
On another plane from what I understand (and don’t) lie the things I believe. I believe in a God of inexhaustible mercy, who loves like a mother and whose love does not disappoint. I believe that suffering is never God’s will and that the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is hogwash. I believe that grace, infinite holiness alive in the world, is always available to us, that God’s inscrutable goodness cannot be conquered by death and that hope may be our highest calling.