When 9/11 happened, I was glued to the news for weeks, my tears and fears joining with all those across the world who felt the shock slip away as a new reality settled. When Hurricane Katrina hit, I delved into the coverage and ached again with those who suffered, eventually adopting a dog who had been found swimming in the waters, full of parasites and stained fur from God only knows what he had encountered. Another hurricane has hit, tragic stories abound and I sit impassively, barely scanning the news, flipping through my twitter feed as images of horror mount. My husband has not so lovingly accused me of becoming cold, a charge I have incredulously argued against. Yet the surging waters have done little to reach me. How did I come to be so disaffected?
My passions ignite for causes, I am active politically and I march for justice, but still I reserve my heart. Avoiding human interests stories, instead focusing on data as if my role has been to merely research and highlight anomalies, I engage from a distance. While I have not yet found words to convince my Chef and maybe even myself, I know somewhere within me lies the capacity to feel. My pastor remarked that grief builds up, like layers, doesn’t go away. We may move on but one more loss can take us right back to all those layers, all those losses. I understood what he meant, I knew those layers. Between each one was my feeble and often heroic attempt to begin anew, to rejoin a world that I trusted would not hurt me or betray me or take away what or whom I loved. A naive ideology that allowed me to restart but the trust was misplaced, the hope was bargaining with a God who didn’t keep His end of the deal. Not only did another loss occur as it absolutely does in life but with it, my faith was eroded, becoming brittle, fragile until the only truth I knew was that I wanted to believe but trusted only myself.
Faith like the “praising in the storm” kind has not been an obstacle for me, but what about when the storm lifts and the rebuilding doesn’t happen, when all lies in ruins and mold begins to grow? I read again and again the story of Job who lost it all and didn’t lose his soul, who trusted in God that what he lost was not his in the first place. Job drives me crazy, this ridiculous man who doesn’t wallow and whine and give up and spend a year in bed. I am sure the lesson is there for me, if only I were stronger. Instead I have allowed the one sure thing that might actually buffet me from the winds and the rains to stay away and then I cry out that I cannot feel God even, I blame God for not returning my property and my people and giving me just one easy day. No, I cannot claim a faith the reaches deep within me and sustains me, I have bargained too many times and lost.
In my teens I began to read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, philosophy that has greatly shaped my thinking. His words on sorrow and joy echo within me, I know these are my layers.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
The truth is that my Chef is right and so am I. I am cold and feelingless, my emotions buried in coffins with dead relationships and dreams for the future. Yet I know that just as Jesus was resurrected and I do believe it was so, I know that my life blood would run warm again if only resurrection would come back into my life. I often wonder if God and I are playing a game of chicken with my sanity and my soul, seeing how much I have to lose before I fall on my knees in total surrender to Him. Poor theology, this vengeful image of God. I am not Job. Out of protection for all who enter my life, arms reach it is, a trick I play to ensure nobody gets hurt, maybe especially me. The flood waters are rising, the layers cannot absorb even another drop.
I know too the words of Emily Dickinson, “hope is the thing with feathers” and of course my favorite Maya Angelou quote: You may write me down in history, With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt, But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Words meant to inspire and push me onward, not inward as I hide in my fortress, cold and alone. I have risen, I have risen indeed, but I have not accepted THE resurrection for me. The cost of fighting through the layers has indeed been steep. Empty of joy, surrounded by sorrow’s skeletons, I await the bird’s song of hope as a new day dawns. Is this the day I surrender? I know like the bird and the flood waters and the next big event, as sure as life happens and losses bring sadness, so too does God wish to walk with me. I know this. One day maybe again I can feel it.