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I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Cry in the Wilderness

Author's note: 
I originally posted this essay in January, 2012. A day after I began to write this, my friend’s husband lost his battle with cancer.  Today is his yahrzeit - the anniversary of his death. It has been four years. 

My apologies that the first line is no longer strictly true. Every other word remains unchanged and painfully true.  His memory will be a blessing, his life was a prayer.  His family will grieve and find comfort in their wilderness. Together they will find healing and learn to be whole again. And let us say: Amen.

My friend's husband is dying. His death is imminent, a matter of days at best.

From the time he was diagnosed, they've had kids to raise, a house to run, meals to cook, carpools to drive. They've helped with homework and changed diapers and created a patchwork quilt made of comfort and stitched with hope. They've experienced great kindness and felt the soul-sucking aloneness of despair. Their family has grown by a glorious one. They've lived their lives, cursed their private hell, leaned on friends and been surrounded by love. They have seen their children grow and grieve, and have been helpless in the face of that grief.

It has been less than a year.

Not enough time. Never enough time to love and hope and grow and be, to live the life that suddenly seems too crowded with everything that makes up a life.

Not enough, but surely more than enough time to curse at God, raise holy hell. Enough time, enough bewilderment to demand to know just where the hell God is in all of this.

"Fuck you, God," we cry out into the wilderness of our pain. Who, in the face of such cruel and capricious reality has not railed against it? We are taught the laws of cause and effect from the time we can begin to comprehend the magnitude of this seemingly immutable law. It is a cosmic law, this if/then equation, a calculus of horrible consequences.

I know that place, that cursing, angry, defiant and terrified place. I have wept and wondered at the why of this despair. I have demanded answers from a silent God. I am good - mostly. And kind - mostly. I follow the rules and color inside the lines - mostly. Where’s the reward for my (mostly) decent and very human life? Why am I being punished? Was I not good enough? Did my life not measure up?

Answer, dammit. Tell me. Nothing? Silence, still? Well then, God: fuck you. Go to hell.

And there, in the darkness of my despair and pain, my grieving, wanting, painful and honest prayer: Fuck you, God. I am convinced that this, too, can be the healing grace of God. Blessing and curse.  I have been blessed; I have been cursed. It depended less upon God and more upon my perspective.  I believe that God needs to hear our raw, unvarnished anguish.  I believe that God needs to hear our pure and unadulterated joy.  I believe they are one and the same thing.

It is not what we pray that matters.  It is, ever and always, that we pray. 

How could we not?  Underneath our cursing, do we not find the unspoken prayer do not forsake me, God; do not abandon me to my pain!  The Psalmist had it right: we cry out to God and we are healed.  He didn't say  what we cried, or how.  He didn't tell us "God only hears the pretty words.  Speak only of love and praise. That is all that God will hear." No, it's pretty clear: we find healing because we cry out in our anger and our fear. 

Blessing and curse.  God does not fuck with us.  We are neither abandoned nor forgotten nor ignored. Neither does God bestow wishes: we do not get parking places or jobs, nor do we win games or wars as a result of our prayers.  What we get, simply, is grace.  What we get is strength and courage to face what life has placed in front of us in that moment.  My faith will not guarantee that I will never know fear again, or that only good things will happen.  My faith, my prayer, my continued conversation with God allows me to put one foot in front of the other, and know that I will be carried through.

And God.  Where is God in all of this?  God is there, on the sidelines, waiting, with infinite patience, infinite compassion, for me to remember to cry out.  God waits, to give me grace, to turn my mourning into dancing.  God waits to dance with me.

For Alyce, my friend: may your mourning turn to dancing; may you dance soon with God.

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