Owen and I are each working on posts for the blog, amidst the confusion of a crazy summer. But meantime, this just arrived in my inbox and I had to share it with you all. From the Peace of Heart Community blog, written by my dear friend Amy Groschell. Amy writes here on a topic that has been in my heart all summer, and I couldn’t have said it any better. With love, dear readers —
“Any dance of celebration must weave both the sorrows and the blessings into a joyful step…To heal is to let the Holy Spirit call me to dance, to believe again, even amid my pain, that God will orchestrate and guide my life.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
BLOG: Joy & Pain, the dance of life
I am convinced that behind every belief system lies either a private pain or a fear of pain and suffering. Today’s current climate couldn’t be more reflective of this. While it is true that a virus of little known magnitude is sweeping through our world, it is also true that many others have gone before it. What makes our response to this one so different?
I would propose it is our ability to name it and, to some degree, avoid it unlike the life-altering diagnosis of autism or cancer as it seems our fear of infectious disease is exponentially greater than diseases of unknown etiology. The human mind has a great desire to know what it is dealing with it we can find a solution to it. In some ways, the ability to name it (via testing) has given it power. In addition to power, the ability to name it has provoked fear. Fear of catching it, fear of a loved one catching it, or fear of what will happen if one does catch it. Often, fear of the unknown is greater than the unknown’s reality.
Somewhere in America we missed the memo that suffering is a part of this world. It’s part of the experience that makes us human. Those who have suffered the greatest often are those most compassionate to others around them experiencing hardship. As one who has had a fair share of suffering, I don’t mean to sound insensitive. At one point we will all undergo something very hard. Something that seems like it will overtake us. Some experience that sends us into deep waters. What will our response be? While we cannot control the response of others, we can control our own.
Many who have traveled to 3rd world countries notice immediately the joy and happiness of those with much less. They don’t have shoes, insurance or access to immediate medical care or medications yet find joy in the smallest things. How can this be? I believe the answer is simple: they know joy and sorrow are intricately connected. They know them to be part of the same human experience.
I lived an idyllic life as a child. Autism hit me as a young mother: twice. I became fearful of “what was next”. When the dreaded next thing happened, losing my husband and father at the same moment, I knew it was impossible to avoid suffering. I began to see life less as something I controlled and more as something I navigated. Essential to me was giving space for God to move. The more I tried to have control, the less space He had. The result under those conditions were always less than desirable. Reducing my expectations gave way for scenarios I could never have dreamed of.
The question remains, what is our response to suffering or the fear of it? Do we behave recklessly or in blatant disregard of others? No. We dig deep into our beliefs systems about our bodies, how our immune systems are designed to work and how we can support them, and we make other lifestyle changes that support our health. We seek medical attention if we do get sick. We reduce our exposure to media and social media. We check in on our family and neighbors and make sure we help meet any unmet needs they have. We do not stand as judge of the beliefs of others knowing they have a secret pain or fear that they alone must navigate. We recognize their journey as their own. We trust that God ultimately is in control of all things. We use strategies like prayer and meditation, and we follow experts who give us tools that bring us peace. “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
Amy Groshell, Co-Founder, Peace of Heart Community
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