Sorting through the muck

This week, several things have been rolling around in my mind. I’m not sure if they are connected or not, but my gut says that they are.  I’ve been thinking about faith lately.  My views of what faith is has changed over the past years, what it can be and how it is lived.  The other thing I’ve been forced to think about triggered by some recent events is those early moments when cancer came knocking on the door of my home.

I found a quote this week on one of the sites I look at weekly;

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Saint Augustine

I was drawn to it because I know that life is a ton of hard work.  I was drawn to it because I do believe in a higher power.  I was drawn to it because of my past life as a minister. I was drawn to it because I want to be a person who serves the greater good. I want to be present to those around me through good times and challenging times…and that can be a lot of work.

If you do a bit of research on this quote from St. Augustine, you’ll find info on Christian hypocrisy. The quote can imply complete submission, reliance on God, but in the same breath demands that I do all the work as if God isn’t really there.  St. Ignatius of Loyola reversed the quote;

“Pray as if everything depended upon you; and act as if everything depended upon God.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Both look like statements of unshakable faith.  I used to think I had unshakable faith.  Then my husband was diagnosed with a cancer that would kill him and did kill him…quickly, violently, without any empathy.  I begged God to be with him, heal him, save us…I was left alone, abandoned…

I’m a big girl and I realize an answer to a prayer won’t always look the way I hope it will.  I am big girl and I realize that I need to work hard to live a faithful life.  As a big girl my idea of how I live that faithful life is constantly evolving.  I used to look for community to support my faith.  It was a wonderful part of my faith journey.  I felt supported by those around me. My husband died…all my relationships changed.  The faith community that supported me didn’t know what to do with me anymore.  My faith changed.  I had a new understanding of lack of control.  I had a new understanding of suffering.  I had a new understanding of “praying as though everything depended on God.”

So this week, my wounded faith found another reason to “work as though everything depended on me.”  A friend’s wife was diagnosed with a very grim looking cancer. Where is my loving God in this?  Another family drenched with the pain and heartache cancer causes.  As my heart ached for them, I was ripped back to those early moments when cancer entered my home, my heart, and tore my life apart.  I haven’t thought about those early moments in a while.  The moment Dave called me from the hospital and put the doctor on the phone to tell me the news, the moment when I went to pick him up at the hospital and bring him home, moment that it sunk in that my life would never be what it was the day before that,  the moment we told our 6 year old son that daddy was sick and he was going to do everything he could to beat the sickness.  All those moments filled with feeling like I was thrust into an unbearable limbo.

Faith and grief are strange bedfellows.  Some people come out on the side that there is a plan…I really hate that saying, so I guess I’m not one of those people. I came out on the side that God’s plan for me may have heartbreak, but it’s not God’s plan that I suffer…that’s just life.

I believe in a loving God that wants me to feel loved, secure, and to love this God, through loving others.  I believe in a God that wants me to serve through serving others.  Do I believe I deserve special treatment because I do these things? Nope.  Am I spared heartache because I am loving and kind? Nope.  No perfect answer.  No perfect plan…just the present moment.

The only thing I really can know for sure is that my faith, like anything else, is evolving in me. How I practice, pray, and live that faith is as evolving as I am.  So, now as a wounded soul, I may not have as clear a picture of faith as I had, but living with ambiguity isn’t such a bad thing…I’ve lived with worse.

Where I put my faith and how I practice my faith changes daily.  Some days it’s easy to believe in the good, the kingdom, the beautiful, and be in awe of God.  Some days, not so much…

What I am sure of is every day it is my choice to fill my heart with gratitude, forgiveness, kindness and love no matter what the world hands me.  Each day I am able to practice these things is another day in a faithful life…I hope.  Each day I fall short is another chance to forgive myself and treat myself with the same love I would anyone else.  Does it look like the faith I thought was strong and durable? Not really.  It does look like something I can do.  It looks like a faith in process.  It looks like me.  Today, that will do.


8 thoughts on “Sorting through the muck

  1. megan says:

    My faith is – complicated. I think well, no maybe rather it’s confused. I get so angry even trying to touch it, to find what is really wrong. I just don’t believe that god has a plan, or that god is always with you – any of it. While it may be true, it doesn’t functionally matter or help. I am absolutely not a better, softer, kinder person Now. My faith has not deepened, it’s only become confused. So what I’ve lost, really, is my compass – the compass I have always had, my context, my sense of the world, and my relationship with god. The one who could help me find my footing again isn’t here anymore. The crapper is, the world without god is ridiculous, but the world with god, I don’t understand anymore.

  2. Having lost my Grandmother last month, this was good to read. Seriously..thank you. Through all the pain, and the anger toward God I was unwilling to admit..prayer got lost. It was hard to share my pain and heart with Him, when I felt so wounded. I know Him so well..and yet..we do find ourselves confused sometimes. And that hurts. The feeling of betrayal hurts…even though we love Him so much..and know how much He loves us.

  3. […] Months ago, I came across a blog that compiled resources for grief, healing and caregiving. Grief Healing has led me to many articles and blogs that seem to come right when I need it. The latest post included a blog that connected with me and I thought I would share. The writer discusses the balance between faith and grief far more eloquently than I ever could. Please consider reading her post. […]

  4. Phyllis says:

    I came to the same conclusion several years ago when my brother was diagnosed with aplastic anemia…it’s life, we’re mortal and it’s just the deal. He recovered, overcoming 20,000 to one odds, a miracle. Then my husband was diagnosed and died with pancreatic cancer all within five months. I still believe the same, but living it is a lot harder, huh? No one to blame, it’s just the deal.

    It’s been about 16 months since he died and I had that time to live in a bubble of sorts, cloaked in the life we built together. Now I’m waking up to what we both knew at diagnosis, that life would never be the same again… to the fact that I’m going to have to sell our farm, our horses, find homes for the dogs and find a new way to live. I feel as scared and crazy as I did when he died, it’s like our life is together is dieing all over again.

    I know how badly I need God for dealing with this life, I can’t afford to reject him. These are all things my husband took care of – I know nothing about selling real estate and finances – I don’t know how I’m going to do all of this. All I know is there better be a God or I’m screwed. God has put wonderful people in my life, I can see that, but when life gets this real, we have decide that either God is real or he is not. I’m betting on real, my past experience tells me yes.

  5. brenner1543 says:

    I came across your blog today and wanted to take a moment to thank you because it really spoke to me. I am currently going through an excruciating grief and fully understand when you talk about being ripped back to those first moments of finding out. It is such a struggle to continue being a strong ally for family and friends who have always depended on you after experiencing such an intense grief. We know we need to still do it but it is such a horrific reminder that it is hard to support our friends as we once we did. It was refreshing to read that I am not the only one who feels like that.

    I also really enjoyed reading your perspective of deserving special treatment because you are a good person. I think this is something we have all struggled with at some point in our lives; why do bad things happen to good people? I feel the same way and it causes me even more torture. Zach, my fiance, was an amazing person with a heart of gold and I strive everyday to be better than the day before but that none of that means we are the exception to the rule when it comes to tragedy and heartbreak.

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