Monday, June 28, 2010

When Life Gets Tough

In many respects the last month or so has been very difficult, partly due to a hectic schedule that includes not only the ordinary round of priestly duties, but also the remodeling of our new home and the threat of moving hanging over our heads. Complicating the schedule has been the postponement of the consecration of a Ugandan friend of ours as a bishop for the Diocese of Kinkiizi.

Perhaps the underlying factor that makes things less than bearable has been the persistent and aggravating pain in my shoulder and the recovery process and physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff and snapped bicep tendon. One result has been many nights where pain prevented a good night’s rest. Even as I type this the nagging pain pulls at my consciousness with every stroke of the keyboard.

There are also a number of other factors, family matters, and the loss of a dear friend who died suddenly and much too soon. I always remember Roseanne Roseannadanna who said, “It’s Always Something.” That was also the title of her memoir of her struggles with the cancer which eventually took her life. “It’s always something” turns out not to be much of a joke when the pressure is on.

My list is not much different than anybody else’s and some of you have even more painful and grievous things to bear. Some insensitive soul pointed out that God only gives us what He knows that we can bear, but that individual was probably well past their immediate pain and was forgetting what the moment was like.

This morning’s meditation led me to Psalm 94:19. In the Revised Standard Version it reads, “When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul.” Why the Revised Standard Version? Well for a start it preserves the personal address to God, “Thy.” The one who hears the cares of our hearts is the one who loves us and makes himself personally known to us, even as we, in the midst of our distress are personally known to Him. The Psalmist shares with us those “cares of the heart,” which are common to God’s children, and to all who are far away from Him. I note that the Psalmist’s list of cares is different than mine, but that doesn’t really matter, cares are cares, and even though we don’t always experience the depth of those “cares of the heart”, the experience of cares creeps up on us unsought. Blessed be the God of all mercy that we don’t live there all the time, and that life has its moments of love and great gladness.

What the verse said was, “When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul.” It is a prayer, but more than a prayer, it is a confession, an acknowledgment of grace being received. Exactly what are the consolations that cheer our souls? First and foremost is the very Presence of God Himself that given the slightest opportunity breaks through the distress of the present moment. In that Presence we are invited to calm and quiet our souls like a weaned child at its mother’s breast. And if we allow, perhaps even seek it out, we are not bereft of companionship of those who love us; a quiet conversation, the sharing or memories, or even the voice of a friend calling to let us know that we are cared for. There is possible in the most difficult of times an invitation into the calm gladness of God, that joy that is not rooted in our subjective experiences, but in the very presence of God Himself. By grace we are invited to step outside of ourselves, to allow some holy distraction in music, drama, or other arts that offer a respite from too much introspection. Wherever we find beauty and truth we find the glory and presence of God.