To my brothers and sisters in the trenches
Welcome, new readers! This blog has grown a lot in the last two weeks, and I am really, really grateful that you are here, however you found your way. Many of you have chimed in with wonderful, supportive comments, and I am so glad to know that you have identified pieces of yourself in pieces of this story. It makes the uncomfortable process of soul-nakedness worthwhile.
But some of you, struggling with your own heavy suffering, are reading along and thinking, “Okay, bully for you. You got your miracle. Your soul is healed. But I am still here, in the waiting. And frankly, that is not fair, and I hate you right now.”
I’m just guessing. But I’m guessing based on experience.
I am living in the in-between. Maybe I always will be, but it is particularly fresh at the moment. There is a line in the sand, and I have stepped across it. My downward spiral hit bottom, and my upward healing trajectory has begun. So has our son’s. I will probably always be inadequate to the task of finding appropriate words to fit the staggering gratitude I feel for this, but I’ll keep trying.
But when I glance over my shoulder, that embittered harpy of a so-called Christian that used to be me? She is there through the looking glass, behind the veil, back on the other side of the line. I can still see her. She is still me. I remember every ugly thought, every sickening wrench of envy. I own them, and they make up part of this new me, too. Peter denied Christ and also embraced his mission with full remembrance of that failure. Christ died, and He was resurrected at Easter with his wounds.
I spent a truly humiliating amount of time in the last twelve months accusing God of some terrible, terrible crimes. He deluged us with grace and healing anyway. None of us, not a single blessed one of us, can do anything to deserve any of the graces we receive from God’s hands. My newfound certainty of God’s love for us, all of the amazing skills Oscar has gained, these do not stem from anything I did or didn’t do. My certainty, also, is living right next door to the part of my brain that still remembers and can fully reconstruct the ancient, harrowing doubts.
Or not so ancient. We get updates on the other malades from our pilgrimage from time to time. Some have died since returning home. Some have suffered relapses. Some have endured worsening symptoms, or new ones. I would not be an honest human being if I didn’t hear those stories and feel pangs of survivor guilt. Why was Oscar singled out for healing? Why him? Why us?
Why any of us?
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
You know something? What you, angry reader, said up there at the beginning? You’re right. Not only did we not deserve this gratuitous, lavish gift of grace from God, it is absolutely not fair that it came to us and not to someone else. But from the unearned unfairness, it does not follow that it should have been someone else’s instead.
We will never comprehend God’s entire plan for Oscar’s life. And we are, in important ways, still carrying our cross. Oscar’s first wheelchair was delivered this week; he may still never walk. He has started trying to communicate in very rudimentary ways, but he may still never speak. But our interior experience of our cross has been transformed by the aching joy of knowing that we are not outside of God’s plan, but living right in the heart of it.
To all of my fellow soul travelers in the trenches: don’t walk away. That is it. If I did anything right over the last year (as opposed to the many things I’m quite sure I did wrong), that was the thing. Don’t walk away.
Be angry. Rant at God. Rant at me! Doubt, scream, cry, accuse, write every wicked thing that crosses your mind down on paper. But do not, under any circumstances, let go of your knowledge, however small and shaky it may be, that God is God and you are not. And, once we accept that much is true, what else is there to say but to echo St Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (I love Peter so much. He is my favorite. Such a screw up, but sometimes we just need that utter lack of sophistication.)
God has been, is, and will always be redeeming you. It may take longer than you think is strictly necessary, longer than is comfortable, longer than seems humanly bearable. It may take longer, even, than the number of breaths you have on this earth. Other people may receive, in the meantime, what you so desperately want. But while you are there, just breathing and not walking away, God is sustaining your every breath with His love, quite literally. He sees you.
While we’re all still here on the wrong side of this dark glass, sometimes the only vocation God is asking of you is just… to stay put, exactly where you are.
Don’t walk away.