Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tragedy and Faith

Every tragedy is like a defibrillator to faith, something that shocks my system and leaves me needing to work out the circuits all over again, to try to reconnect and return to a healthy rhythm.  It resurrects the same doubts and questions about good and evil, faith and fear, that humankind has battled for all of time. 

Tragedy is a jolt out of apathy that slingshots me right back into the complex myre: What do I believe?  Do I believe?  How now shall I live? 

I wrestle and squirm a while until I'm once more preoccupied with and consumed by my own small life, abandoning the big and unanswerable questions until the next time something shocks me out of my complacency, and again I question.





Sometimes I never get past the question.  Sometimes I advance to unbelief and then fall back into the arms of grace.  Sometimes I slip from belief to hate to disbelief to mercy to love and back again to hate, over and over.  And all of it is okay because there is a wrestling, because there is a questioning.  What is faith without doubt?  What is hope without the unseen?  What is there to believe if the truth is always right in front of me, within my reach and easy to grasp? 

Tragedy is a defibrillator that scares up the same fears and doubts so that we can be honest about our uncertainties.  It is an opportunity to see God, who is and will always be mysterious and out of reach and yet makes himself accessible and intimate in these moments. Or maybe he doesn't.  Maybe he is silent and we have to wrestle with that, too.  Maybe we just don't see him because we don't know how to see, or maybe we're blind for this time and unable to see past grief, or anger, or pain. 

Mercy is the time given for us to process and to run and to yell and to heal and finally, to turn and keep walking.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Metaphors and Me

This week I've been working on an essay about miscarriage and faith.  As you can imagine it's so uplifting and happy and plastered with joy that everyone is going to want to read it!  ...  Or, no.  The good news is that I made tremendous progress from this happened and then this happened and then THIS happened and I HATED it to something a little more artistic and a little more interesting, and I think, also, a little more accessible, a little more heart-breaking but also a little more redemptive, too.  And that's what I like about revision.  Just a little more at a time.

One of the reasons I like writing essays and poems is because of metaphor and simile, parallels and juxtaposition.  There are few things more exhilarating than to find a similar story line in some other experience in nature, or the perfect fact to buttress what I've gone through or felt.  It's probably also why I love stories, and why many people love stories - if a story (whatever genre it is) in some way rubs up against our own personal experiences or tugs at the desires and emotions of our lives, we have exited the realm of solitude and entered community.  I am not alone in this.  This feeling that I've had is not unique to me.

For me, discovering some strange parallel in nature or science or health or religion or wherever it might come from builds an even greater connection, one to the divine.  It reinforces the sense I have that all things are vibrating with a mysterious energy, rubbing up against each other to make friction and music, because they are carrying in greater or lesser degrees the same spark of divinity that resides in the hearts of men and women.  

I don't think this is just me anthropomorphizing.  Or maybe it is.  Whatever the case, when I discover a metaphor for an experience I've had, like miscarrying, or more often than not, when the metaphor pops into the middle of my living room like a sizzling 4th of July sparkler, I'm so surprised and delighted by it that I can't help but smile.  Each sentence or line feels like a gift.  I am not alone in the universe, on the planet, in this country, on this street, in this room, in my head.  There are beautiful strange delightful fantastic mysterious horrible and wonderful things all around me and I just can't wait for the next one to sneak up and say, hey, check this out.


What I'm Reading: Wild by Cheryl Strayed (FANTASTIC, as expected)
What I'm Writing: this essay about miscarriage and faith that everyone just can't wait to read and be so inspired
What I'm Watching: National Treasure is muted in the corner
What I'm Eating: I just had a big spoonful of almond butter, and as soon as I'm done with this, I'm going to go make sweet potato fries and guacamole because my husband is coming home soon YES

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Grace Notes by Brian Doyle

I JUST finished Grace Notes by Brian Doyle, literally just finished the last page and set it down on my desk and sat back in my chair and sighed that long, contented, choked up sigh of YES.  This!  

"...after fifty years, I am absolutely sure what I am supposed to do: sense stories, catch some by their brilliant tails as they rocket by, carve and sculpt them into arrows, and fire them into the hearts of as many people as I can reach on this bruised and blessed planet. That's all. That's enough."


I've also read Leaping by Doyle, which was also SO GOOD.  These are the sorts of books and Doyle is the sort of author that makes you want to return to page one as soon as you've finished page 148.  The prose is lively and unexpected.  Conversational and intimate.  And most importantly, these short essays fire arrows into the hearts of readers.

That's all.  That's enough.