Friday, August 25, 2006

Postcard from the Edge

Oksana said here that "I find it helpful to read posts on this blog, they help me to figure out what to say to other people when they disagree. I would also be happy to see more sharings about people's personal struggle for virtues." I agree.

I've got a friend who is having a very hard time accepting the death of her sister. She is a very intelligent and faithful Catholic, but I thought to myself that where she is right now I could see her drifting away from the Faith. And I thought how odd that would be. For the Christian view of death is summed up in the words of the Apostle Paul: "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

It makes sense to miss the loved one, but--if Christianity is true--not only is there no injustice in a "premature" death, it is a bonus: freedom from the veil of tears, and entry on the path to the beatific vision. Yet...and yet..

I feel that I would never be able to forgive God if something happened to my loved ones. I fear this immensely, even pathologically. I can't forgive God for the atrocities He's allowed thus far that don't affect me personally in any way. I'm more afraid of God, than of anything on Earth.

That's just irrational, but that's the way it is.


Blogger oxi_b said...

thank you for sharing this. After I read your post, I thought that I must have something to say about this. It seems relevant to my life, too. My mother died when I was eight, then my father got a Parkinson decease. As a crown of all the miseries, my brother showed signs of mental illness. I thought I was getting it harder than anybody else. I was angry at God, I even stopped going to the church on Sundyas, which was a cause of an immense pain. My anger at God was the most self-destructive thing I've ever experienced. I knew that he was the only rescue from all my sufferings, and simultaneously I blocked myself from his help in sacraments. By my anger at God, I punished myself.

As I was survivng the hard times of my anger, a new picture gradually evolved. I was angry not at God, I was angry because God wasn't the way I imagined him to be. All that process revealed my misconception of who really God was.

And he turned out to be a lot better than I thought. The suffering has drown me to another level of faith. God loves us, which means that he respects us. He doesn't play with his creations like with dolls or toys, he has given us free will. Free will to love him or to despise him. In this respect he treats us as equals. He lets us have an argument with him, he lets us hate him, despise him, be angry at him. He lets us to enter into an intimate relationship with him, and those emotions are always present in an intimate relationship. And it is a relationship which is meant to develope and to deepen. God wants us to grow to more mature love, God wants us to love the way he loves. And he loves us for nothing. When he withdrows the an appearance (only the appearance!) of support from us, that's only when we are given a chance to love him more perfectly.

I can not say exactly how I resolved this question for myself. Yesterday on a prayer group Thomas Keating on the tape said that when you get through all the misery, when the suffering accompishes its work in your soul, the questions simply become irrelevant.

To say honestly, I don't think there is a logical explanation for all the suffering. There are cases when suffering is a result of poorly made decisions and sin, but not always. I remember being a little irritated when one of my friends told me that she thinks that all the orphans are especially guarded by God. Not that they aren't, but the answer is not that simple. Sometimes God is tough on us, and there is no obvious reason for that. Saing that your close one is better off being dead, or that the angels are guarding you may sound like a scorn when you are in that pain. One friend of mine once said that we should be dancing on the funerals and be happy that the deceased has got to see God. But yet Christ cried when Lazar died. Mourning and loss are natural.

The most relevant text in the Bible is, probably, the book of Job. He was a righteous man, and everything was taken from him. It sounds like God was just having a conversation with the devil over a cup of coffee. Let's see what that Job is all about. His friends than come and tried to console him, but their 'consolation' only caused more pain. They are tried to explain his sufferings logically: surely, he has done womething wrong. But he didn't, not at least more wrong than others.

After all this Job comes to the next level: he still reveres God, but now not because God gave him everything, but with pure soul. His faith is purified. He says:

2 "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."

Those are just my thoughts on the topic you raised. It may not be what you needed to hear, it's what I needed to say.

I think the fear of God, the feeling of anger are normal, I think that much more people have them than we think. It's important not to be guarded by them. That we have them only shows that we are on the journey to the union with God, as we are supposed to be.

My fear for now is my future and the future of my family. Sometimes I think of what will happen with my father and brother, or what will happen to me. I guess I just take it one day at a time.


Monday, September 18, 2006 12:12:00 AM  

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