How do you feel? What do you experience during this time? Do you say to yourself it will pass, it will never be the same again, or everything is going to return to normal? What is “normal.” What is “returning to normal” for you? Do you think about this, or do you only try to survive and deal with your many anxieties, looking forward in going back to your old life? Going back to the old life, which may be, a dysfunctional family, an immature boss, mother, or father. living your richness, loneliness, being a single mom struggling to raise her children, a helper and mother bracing the cold to catch a bus at 4 in the morning, hungry children standing in line at a soup kitchen, an old man waking up in his age home room– his children had left or a drive through society where you have made it if you have money, a professional job, straight A children and power!
Do we see this? Do we think about this, or are we striving so hard to live up to society’s voice of being someone, having things and power? Do we need this security and safety to boost our ego, to lessen anxiety and discomfort, to move society forward, to share with the less fortunate? Richard Rohr (2013) a spiritual writer says: “ The hunger for meaning and hope that we have cannot be satisfied by mere private choices: You cannot think yourself into a new way of living, but you must live yourself into a new way of thinking”. It is lifestyle choices that finally change us and allows us to see in new ways. Jesus, put it in a perfect metaphor. “you do not put new wine into old wineskins – then both will be lost (Mark 2;22). Why do most of us avoid a new way of living?
In these days, I watch a lot of documentaries on war and natural disasters. The journalists bringing discomfort and suffering into our homes by way of footage that they share. We see footage of destruction in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq and yet we see a woman dressed in black with a basket of vegetables –then one realizes, how macabre, life goes on. Children playing with stones on a heap of rubble – once their home, life goes on. The same beggar on the corner for years on end—life goes on. A family in mourning over the loss of their child, a family sharing a meal with their neighbors in the refugee camps. Yes, life goes on, but how– what do we make of it? What do we think, feel, and do every day about life! Risk our life to get vegetables or stay indoors? Share our meal or eat alone? You see, no matter how impossible, anxiety driven, unbearably uncomfortable life may be – we still have that choice!
We experience many emotions during this time — anger, fear, trying to keep our pride, self-worth and confidence. I am interested to know what society is telling us during this time – society, mainly our social network that is all over our lives at this moment, in our pocket, alongside the bed, at the table –pretty much everywhere. Are they saying, rise early, express your opinion, obey, spend time with children, bake and brew, keep busy, renew your thinking, get closer to God? What do you say? What does that deep silent inner voice telling you about the deeper meaning of all this that is happening?
Can it be that we are once more moving closer to the century old question: What is the sense of everything? What is the purpose of my life? What is my life’s-philosophy and my values? Clinebell a spiritual leader and theologian refer to the seven interrelated spiritual needs that all of us need to strive for. They are: a viable philosophy of life, creative values, a relationship with a loving God, a trustful belonging in the universe, a caring community that nurtures spiritual growth and experiencing renewing moments of transcendence.
Philip Yancey (1990) the author of the book: “Where is God When It Hurts” explored the many difficult issues surrounding the mystery of pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. He wrote a thought-provoking list of “advantages” to suffering that a Catholic nun named Monica Hellwig developed through the years. He adopted her list and broadened it to include all who suffer. Those who suffer;
- know not only their dependence on God, but also their interdependence with one another
- rest their security not on things, which often cannot be enjoyed and may soon be taken away, but rather on people
- expect little from competition and much from cooperation
- have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need to privacy, suffering humbles the proud
- To suffering people, Gods Word sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding, it offers hope and comfort
- Suffering teaches patience, it teaches the difference between valid fears and exaggerated fears.
Reflect on the above.
You are also familiar with the work of Victor Frankl, survivor of the Holocaust.I would like to refer to a few paragraphs in his book “Man Search for Meaning”:
Victor Frankl (1963) said: “in addition to torture, starvation, work, weather and epidemics, the loss of hope is believed to have been a major cause of death amongst Nazi concentration-camp prisoners, that is, many suffered from a terminal state of mind. For those prisoners not slaughtered outright, the war against their tormentors was won or lost on the battlefront of the mind. Survivors, who not only lived but thrived once free were described as those able to; escape into an inner world of faith, seeking identity in spiritual values and not circumstances, celebrating minor victories, expressing gratitude for whatever was not taken from them, savouring the tiniest bits of beauty, even if accessed only by memory ,tapping humour for relief – despite macabre circumstances, diminishing the impact of horror by focusing elsewhere and relishing what no one could destroy, the love of family and friends”.
Reflect on the following: “To be alive means to encompasses the ability to take hold of life day by day as well as to find meaning in suffering. Life has meaning under all circumstances and the central motivation for living is the will to meaning, the freedom to find meaning in all that we think, feel and do”
Finally , our invitation towards life is to Love, to have Faith, Hope and Wisdom, to have Mercy and Grace, to seek the Truth, to have Less, and to life a Balanced live in harmony and union with God.
May your journey be enriched by meaning and hope! The Family Corner.
Clinebell, H. 1984. Basic types of pastoral care and counselling: Resources for the ministry of healing and growth. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
Frankl, V.1963. Man’s search for meaning. Boston: Beacon.
Rohr, R & Ebert, A.2013. The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.New York: Crossroad.
Yancey, P. 1990. Where is God when it hurts? A comforting, healing guide for coping with hard times. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.