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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Path of Wonder, and The Path of Suffering

This quote from the book on the Trinity I am sloowwwllly reading has stuck with me for at least a week, so it's worth sharing.  The author talks about how difficult it is for us to cross over from intellectual affirmation of doctrine to grasp the mystery of "deep calls to deep" (Psalm 42), and hold onto both aspects of knowing God.  Then he says:

"I might be oversimplifying, but I think there are basically two paths that allow people to have a genuinely new experience:  the path of wonder and the path of suffering."

Wonder:  awe, admiration, reverence, beauty, marvel, astonishment, mystery.
Suffering:  distress, pain, agony, torment, grief, loss, aguish.

Paradoxically paired, these two states break us out of our struggle to control, they both put us in a place of vulnerability.  They are not opposites so much as intertwined partners, descriptors of the human state in a unfathomably vast and intricate universe that is also dangerously full of hard sharp edges.  We are small, real, loved, uncertain.  Which is often the place where we can perceive, no grasp the presence of God in newer and fuller ways.

And paradoxically paired, wonder and suffering are like two arms holding our home, two parentheses surrounding our lives.  Naivasha, Kenya, Africa are the places of wonder and suffering.  We returned 9 days ago.  The last week+ has been a blur of both.  Five days at Naivasha, two at Kijabe, one of Serge-admin-calls-followups, and one of rest.  Rounds, lectures, emails, bedside teaching, unpacking, cleaning, listening, supporting, meeting, planning.  Right back into the thick of life.

Wonder:  the pounding afternoon drenching of rainy season, the suffusion of pink in the evening sky, the cheer of neighbors and friends in spite of uncertain futures, the embrace of truly wonderful team mates and friends, the simplicity of our own home, the growth or our garden with its soft bright leaves of spinach and cilantro, the privilege of hosting overnight guests more than half our nights back already, the grace of giraffe and pelicans and eland and jacaranda.

Suffering: the three babies who succumbed to curable problems this weekend, the baby with brain-damage from a difficult delivery after his mom was turned away from private hospitals for lack of funds, the 270+ Somalis killed by terrorist bombers in their own capital Saturday just to our NE, or the 46 Afghan police officers killed and hundreds wounded in two similar attacks by their own version of terrorists targeting their own people today (about 180 km south of our 2nd Lt), the wearying reality that next week's elections will likely mean another slow-down shut-down of medical services with potentially nothing resolved, the ongoing nursing strike in Kenya, the tension of working in a dysfunctional system and knowing when to bite our tongues and when to call out evil, the holy sorrowful moment of telling a 16 year old high school student the story of John 9 because the baby she just had was born with no brain . . . wanting her to know that this is not a punishment but for the mysterious glory of God in her life.

Walking through wonder, walking through suffering.  Pray that we would walk into mystery, into knowing deeply the God who is for us, with us, and so far beyond us.

1 comment:

Judith Shoolery said...

As always, I'm reading your post at my bedtime--late tonight because I forgot to take a pain pill and I'm full of aches. I want to thank you for your faithful sharing. You comfort me on more occasions than you can guess, and of course I pray for you in gratitude and praise, and for your wellbeing and that of your dear ones. Your message of how we discover God in two contradictory ways has been true throughout my life, It is mysterious and paradoxical but true in my experience. The lesson for me is to love and treasure the beauties of the human spirit and the wonders of our world and to trust and turn over the anguish when it comes and find Him present with his love. I needed to be reminded tonight, May God be with you in love and peace this day.
With grateful good wishes and prayers for you and your dear ones,
Judy in HMB