Holding together the dark and the lovely in our life


When the heart breaks

Why is it that God allows our hearts to break? That love could cause us such pain and suffering and yet survive and even thrive is a miracle. God’s own heart broke at the dawn of creation when we chose our own way to happiness. And since we have done so again and again. And Love? That Love, eternally multiplying magnificence of tenderness and care, has bent over us again and again, believing in our capacity to welcome his heart one day.

I think God knows how fragile we are, which is why he persists in knocking at the door of our hearts. Showing us the miracle of Love which alone can mend our own broken hearts.

Sutherland, TX: Let love go before us

Sunday. Again. Another story of a mass murder.

Just last week I prayed with the Manhattan truck attack. The people who died. The people left behind. Everyone who was hurt. Everyone. All of us. In one great lament.

Inside my heart I asked God Why?

And I seemed to hear God’s own immense wail of sorrow. Lamentation. Pain at seeing death snatching his children again. God’s tears gave me permission to shed my own. To unite my lamentation to his. To blend my agony with the divine agonizing cry of love that rises from the heart of Jesus. To melt my Why? into mystery. They are the fierce tears stronger than those of a mother who would throw herself in the way of danger to save her child. As Jesus has done for us.

Taking the long view of the violent situations that tear apart cities and hearts has brought me closer to the divine way of seeing things. Jesus died almost 2000 years ago, an anguished cry of love and mercy that was stronger than the evil that overshadows humanity with its power from creation to Christ’s second coming. A cry of agony for the sinners and the sinned against. Even as he died, the darkness couldn’t snuff out the light and the apostles fled in fear.

Jesus three-day-after Resurrection blares out one message: God has a plan, and that plan will be victorious over sin, evil, and death. That plan is bigger than the terrible acts of mass murder that shatter frightened hearts. That plan is greater than my sin and weakness. That plan is larger than politics, agendas, and organizations. That plan is stronger than ecclesial failures and brokenness.

And that plan, there is no derailing that plan.

Last night I listened to the statement of the Pastor’s wife at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I was both moved and humbled. It is clear that in the midst of this evil, they as a community–as a common Body–remember that, even with a church building beyond repair and many of their congregation now gone, they are still church. All still one. Re-gathering, consoling and in reality re-membering one another. Evil carried but not absorbed.

Let love go before us, then, to tend to the broken hearts. Let wisdom light the way, calling down the Holy Spirit on all of us that we might see the plan, God’s plan, and find our way together once more.


Whatever you are struggling with, God is greater

I couldn’t sit still long enough to pray. My heart was awash in storms. My mind clattering and cluttered.

“Stop!” I wanted to cry out to myself, but I knew it would only multiply the anguish. So I struggled alone. Valiantly. Almost too valiantly.

And God? Nowhere to be found, unless I counted my attempts to succeed in praying the right way. There was really only the struggle. Alone.

The other night I spoke with a sister on the phone as she was describing to me an experience at prayer which she had received. “I realize that I need to let go,” she said as she told me what Jesus had shown her. “Not to fill the empty spaces with thoughts. That God is at work accomplishing something secret in my soul that I’m not to see at this time. But I believe.” Ten years ago when I had met her, this sister was in anguish. Today she was reaping years of spiritual attentiveness and hope.

There you have it. Three general ways of dealing with life and with our relationship with God:

  • Lost at sea and tossed by storms
  • Trying to fit the pattern of a good pray-er
  • Receiving the mystery and gift of God’s presence, almost as a surprise.

Whatever you are struggling with, God IS greater. The struggle is important to understand. Maybe we need a change in an aspect of our life, or support from a friend, or relief from overwhelming worries. Maybe, as I needed last night, we just need a shoulder to cry on in order to get the clarity and the peace to receive what God is doing.

Perhaps as we explore our statements that God is “not here” and “nowhere to be found” and “doesn’t care about me,” as well as the feelings of loneliness, anger, or fear that sustain these beliefs, we might be surprised, as a friend was the other day, to hear God speak directly to us. “But I’m here for you.” “My dear one, I love you.” These words from Jesus don’t make sense with our reasoning. We almost can’t believe that they could be true. They shouldn’t be there while we’re making our trip down negative lane. Where do these words of a Lover come from?

It is our personal Mount Tabor experience. On Mount Tabor Jesus revealed himself to the three poor apostles whose minds were puny and whose concept of following Jesus was elementary compared with the glory of God revealed before them that day. Jesus changed the playing field, by revealing himself as Sovereign Lord and Unending Love.

Finally, one day, there will be no question for us that God is the One who is Truth, our Truth, the only Truth. Not because we’ve convinced ourselves, understood the concept or the teaching. But because we’ve let go of our small selves to swim in the immensity of God’s mystery. As Jacopone da Todi (1230 to 1306) describes it in Self-Annihilation and Charity Lead the Soul:

I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed Your presence….

Light beyond metaphor,
Why did You deign to come into this darkness?
Your light does not illumine those who think they see You
And believe they sound Your depths.
…He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.

The soul, made new again,
Marveling to find itself
In that immensity, drowns.
How this comes about it does not know.

by Sr. Kathryn Hermes, FSP