I firmly believe the answer to any problem can be found in a book. I further believe that synchronicity brings us into relationship with the book we need when we need it.
However, if I am to be honest with myself, I must consider the possibility that my belief in synchronicity — a concept psychologist Carl Jung developed over a period of 30 years — is a holdover from graduate school and my foray into reading Tarot cards. I wanted to write my thesis on the works of Canadian writer Robertson Davies, specifically a trilogy (I think) in which a reading by a gypsy fortune teller was woven into each plot.
This appealed to me because I had read somewhere while earning an undergraduate minor in psychology that Jung used Tarot cards with his patients. Assuming my memory is accurate, he didn’t use them for fortune telling, but rather to open the minds of his patients to new connections through the archetypes found in the cards. Having been raised Catholic, I shied away from anything related to the occult, but I was still intrigued.
When I ran across the reference to Tarot cards in a novel in one of my grad classes, my ever-creative mind found a valid loophole for exploring them. I felt I needed to understand the cards themselves before I could understand Davies’s use of them in his novels. I felt that as long as I limited the scope of my research, I wouldn’t slide into anything my Catholic conscience would consider sinful.
And thus it began.
I ended up reading Tarot cards off and on for 20 years — far more off than on. I only read them regularly for a little over a year. After that, they lay in the bottom of a dresser drawer until I finally gave them away. You aren’t supposed to read the cards for yourself, but I could never resist the temptation to do so when my life was in transition. Yes, during difficult times, I looked to Tarot cards, hoping God would use them to provide some guidance, because he never saw fit to send angels or burning bushes to give me direction.
Eventually, God managed to wrap my head around the idea that I needed trust him to work in my life one day at a time. Eventually, I learned I don’t need to know what is going to happen when my life seems to be unraveling around me; I need only know that when all that makes my heart ache and my stomach churn and my head pound finally passes, and the dust settles, all will be well. While I may find myself in places I would not have dreamed possible, I will be grateful.
Of course, I would be negligent if I didn’t say this: Sometimes those periods of uncertainty last for years. The path of faithfulness is not for those who lack courage. Trusting God for daily bread when you are unemployed — tough. Trusting God to give you wisdom to traverse the minefield of a relationship in turmoil — tougher.
But you do it. And books can help — if you are receptive to the possibility.
Whether finding the right book at the right time is simply synchronicity, one of Jung’s meaningful coincidences, or whether God works through synchronicity to provide needed sustenance is a mystery. Personally, I lean toward the latter, but I tend to think God does work in the circumstances of our lives.
Granted, the gift of a book seems like a pretty small miracle when compared to some of his splashier jobs — creation, the virgin birth, the resurrection. But when it comes to miracles, I don’t know that size matters. Miracles essentially do two things: they get our attention and they change the world.
The right book at the right time can do exactly that. The right book will get your attention, and it will change the way you deal with a difficult situation. That change will affect the outcome, because it creates a space for God to work.
So, lately, I have been wrestling with a relationship in transition. A separation I chose, because it seemed like the healthiest option, is more difficult than I expected. I knew I would be sad, but I did not expect this profound sense of loss, this post-knocked-through-my-middle, will-I-ever-breathe-again pain. I vacillate between thinking I made a horrible mistake and knowing I made the best decision possible considering the circumstances. The problem with pain is that it likes to tug you into despair.
Fortunately, I experienced a book miracle. I found a book of essays called: Beautiful Hope: Finding Hope Every Day in a Broken World. I am trying to read and reflect on one of the essays every day or so. This week, I was both comforted and encouraged by one called, “Expect the Impossible” by Father Jacques Philippe. He wrote:
“Faith and hope are like the wings of love; they give power to launch out ever further, to take flight unceasingly, without getting exhausted or discouraged. When hope dwindles, love dies down; the heart is invaded by uneasiness and worry, which stifle charity. Hope keeps the heart free to love, and to give itself.”
I smiled when I read that. “Got it, God,” I thought. “Don’t give up hope.”
Hope on that particular day was truly a miracle.