It’s crying time again — that 10 or 15 minutes after being put down for a nap when my twin granddaughters fight sleep.
Sara said the best way to cope during that interval is to do something — take a shower, mop the floor, check e-mail, anything that will distract an overly-sensitive gramma so she doesn’t dash in to offer comfort. That’s sensible advice. Really, it is, and because it makes sense, I do it.
It’s still hard, though, to hear them cry — which, I suppose, makes it like suffering in a small way.
I’ve been reading about suffering in a chapter on obedience in “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” by James Martin, S.J. It’s one of those rare books that’s both easy to read and digest, but also wise in an I-can-live-this way.
After describing the Jesuit vow of obedience and illustrating with examples, Martin goes on to explain all of us can be obedient by living our daily lives in a way that recognizes God’s presence. He illustrates with a lesson learned by Walter Ciszek, S.J., who served 15 years in a Siberian labor camp.
“One day . . . he [Ciszek] had a revelation. When it comes to daily life, God’s will is not some abstract idea to be figured out or puzzled over or discerned. Rather, God’s will is what is presented before us every day.”
Martin notes it’s easy to do this when our daily lives bring blessings, but not as easy when daily life includes suffering. While he doesn’t offer any facile platitudes regarding suffering, which is a reflection of the book’s wisdom, he does remind us that God can reveal himself in new ways in our suffering.
“In vulnerability, in poverty of spirit, in brokenness, we are often able to meet God in new ways — perhaps because our guard is down and we are more open to God’s presence.”
As I read this chapter, called “Surrendering to the Future: Obedience, Acceptance and Suffering,” I can’t help but think of my life over the past couple months. First, I was faced with a distressing decision regarding my job situation. Then, I had to grapple with unemployment and the challenge of job hunting in a part of the state where jobs are few and far between. While prayer helped me to remain centered in facing those challenges, that inner peace was disrupted when I learned one of my granddaughters was injured at day care and hospitalized as a result.
The distance between South Dakota and California has never been so great as it was for me during those long days and long nights until my plane landed in California and I could see with my own eyes that my precious sweetheart was going to recover. Since then, I’ve found myself giving thanks dozens of times each day for the gift of this time. If bad things must happen to those I love, and it is inevitable since that is part of the human condition, I can only be grateful God provided the opportunity for me to be available until new childcare arrangements can be made.
But, that is only the beginning. I’m grateful to live in a time when the Internet allows me to search for employment as easily from California as from my own home. I’m grateful my daughter and son-in-law were able to buy my ticket at a time when my financial resources are so very limited. I’m grateful for the prayerful support of friends and members of my church family.
Most of all, I’m grateful for baby smiles and baby giggles, grateful for first steps and cuddly bears, grateful for sippy cups and disposable diapers, grateful for books to read and balls to roll, grateful for walkers and sleepers and blackberries at snacktime, grateful for little arms reaching for love and grateful for a God who has given me all these things.
This interlude has put things into perspective. I’m still unemployed and my granddaughter’s injury will take weeks to heal, but these traumas are transient. I know this in a new way. I used to cope with difficult times by telling myself, “I survived the loss of my mother and the loss of my son; I can survive this, too.” Today I tell myself, “Yes, life brings difficulties, but God is good. Where is he now?”