by Christine Sine
The last couple of days have been a real struggle for me. I have prayed, I have repented and at times I have been in tears. What on earth is going on you might ask? Has she strayed from the straight and narrow? No! At least not in the usual way we think of this.
I am however weighed down by the news and a deep sense of the evil that exists in our world and the feeling that I am a part of it… and I want to turn away from the pain.
First there is the ongoing saga of the U.S. shutdown. Now at an end thank goodness, at least for the moment. So many lives scarred and disrupted by it.
Then someone reminded me that many of the migrants the US Mexican wall is meant to keep out are displaced and in poverty because of the deliberate destabilization caused in their countries by past US governments. Something else to cause me pain.
January 26th was Australia Day and brought with it another wave of pain. Reading Michael Frost’s important but devastating article We stole your land, your language and your wages but hey let’s celebrate about how indigenous people in Australia have been treated since white people settled there had me in tears. Knowing that the same has happened here in the U.S. and in many other parts of the world makes my heart ache.
January 27th, was International Day of Commemoration For Victims of the Holocaust. So much pain. So much suffering and as one person commented How could a Christian nation do this?
It is easy for all of us to turn a blind eye to to the pain and disruption in peoples’ lives. It overwhelms us and we are afraid that it will consume us if we dwell in the midst of it for too long.
Reaching for Solace
Fortunately there is a way to cope that allows us to confront the pain without being overwhelmed by it. The word David Whyte uses in his book Consolations David Whyte is solace. He is talking about the need for solace after the loss of loved ones, but it seems to me that we also need solace when we are confronted with the kinds of situations I mentioned above.
Confronting this kind of pain makes us feel we have lost a loved one – maybe it is a beloved viewpoint about the goodness of our culture, or of the “Christian” heritage that shaped it. Whenever we confront the reality I found his words really spoke to my heart.
Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavor…. Solace is found in allowing the body’s innate wisdom to come to the fore…. (and letting it lead us), when the mind cannot bear what it is seeing or hearing, to the bird-song in the trees above our heads, even as we are being told of a death, each note and essence of morning and of mourning; of the current of a life moving on, but somehow, also, and most beautifully, caring, bearing and even celebrating the life we have just lost.
Solace is defined as comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness. We need it when we lose a loved one or are devastated by illness but we also need it when we are confronted by the societal atrocities of our cultures, because it is only when we have felt comfort and consolation that we are able to move forward and act not just with repentance but also with reconciliation and sometimes with reparation.
Despair leads us to darkness, solace pulls us out into the light where we can hear the bird song and relish the beauty of the sunrise, and be reenergized to respond.
David Whyte goes on to say:
To look for solace is to learn to ask fiercer and more exquisitely pointed questions, questions that reshape our identities and our bodies and our relation to others. Standing in loss but not overwhelmed by it, we become useful and generous and compassionate and even amusing companions for others.
Solace allows us to ask fierce questions, direct questions that are more than fluff and mild sympathy, without burning us out — uncomfortable questions — what can I do? How can I respond? What do I need to give up to make this response?
One of my friends started tithing to the local Native American tribe because of the hard questions he has been forced to confront. Another started working with families in Central America to help them find economic and educational stability in their still unstable country.
I am still discerning what response God is asking of me, but I know that in order to go deeper into God I will need to make a response. In the mean time I have written a prayer/poem that I know will keep me on track.
Bringer of peace
through unexpected paths.
Lover of the unwashed,
Companion of sinners,
Friend of the poor.
Bringer of costly peace
that demands our lives.
Peace not through violence
but through sacrifice
Death to self.
Life for others.
Renew us, resurrect us,
Until we all become
one family together,
from all the nations of the world.
I ask you too to prayerfully look at the unsettling news that you have read in the last few days and ask yourself what response God might ask of you to.