A Fragile Place

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Happy Christmas Eve. (It’s the 24th here in NZ.)

Having only launched my blog in August, I’m still a relative newbie and I haven’t yet built up a significant following.

But I want to thank everyone who has read, Liked or Followed so far. It means a lot to me that people are reading and appreciating my writing. I hope I have helped you, inspired you, challenged you or made you laugh. Or all four. I hope to do the same in 2013 (and to finish the first  – and even second – draft of my novel.)

Now a few words about Christmas, and I will leave you in peace.

I adore Christmas, but this year, for me and no doubt countless others, there is a bittersweetness to the carol singing and the present wrapping and the excitement I see in my daughter’s face.

As I watched the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School unfold I felt a surreal numbness, as though my heart was refusing to contemplate such horror. I kept my little girl very close to me that day.

It is impossible to imagine the amount of grief in that community, the broken parents, the shattered lives, the confusion and the hatred and the fear.

In the days that followed the shooting, the desperate search for meaning, for some thread of understanding, began. I felt enormous anger when I heard comments such as: “It was all part of God’s plan”, or: “God has called them home” (thank you, President Obama, for that momentary lapse in sane and sensible commentary), or: “This is a test sent from God.”

As if these children and teachers were mere pawns, moved around the board by a God whose Game Plan – apparently to drive people insane with grief – was more important than the lives of these precious, fiercely loved souls.

As if God was a bit lonely up there in Heaven and decided he needed some children to keep him company more than their Mothers and Fathers needed them in their arms.

As if God is a sadistic teacher, coolly handing out cruel tests and marking people on whether they pass or fail. The Hunger Games writ large.

It’s just so wrong, and heartbreaking, and it does so little justice to those who were lost and those who have been left behind to suffer. (And incidentally, it does God a great injustice as well – whatever we perceive God to be.)

Why do people say these things? There are some who actually believe in that sort of God. I pity them. But others say these things because they are afraid. They are afraid of their own mortality and of ignorance and of a world which can be senselessly, arbitrarily cruel.

Some of you may have read Why Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. A Jewish Rabbi,  Kushner’s son was diagnosed with an incurable disease when he was three years old. “Why, God?” was the inevitable question that led Kushner to write this intelligent, elegant, thoughtful book.

He does not hold with the view that everything happens on earth because God wants it that way. Instead, he offers the opinion that events actually can, and do, take place for no reason at all, and he explores how we can find peace and comfort in this place of uncertainty. He fearlessly questions God himself and the ways in which we attempt to comfort each other when tragedy strikes.

Bad things happen because people make bad choices. And sometimes bad things just…happen. There is no reason, no grand master plan, no giant jigsaw puzzle being put together piece by piece that will one day be revealed in all its logical glory. (Ah, so that’s why my son / daughter / parents / family had to die! God needed the corner piece!) We humans, desperately searching for meaning to ward off our immense fear of oblivion, cannot bear this. And so when horror happens, we often say ignorant things in a misguided effort to try to keep our world in order and the tragedy in others’ lives out of our own.

If we love, we leave ourselves open and vulnerable to loss. It is a fragile place to inhabit, and a frightening one. There are rich rewards, but the horror of loss when it happens, as illustrated so poignantly by Sandy Hook, can literally be too much to bear.

Most of us will not experience such senseless, terrifying grief in our lifetime. But we will have our own sorrows, and we will meet many people also experiencing grief and sadness and hurt.

Let us be courageous enough to sit in the pain, rather than trying to flick it away to make ourselves more comfortable and our universe more understandable. Let us be brave enough to join those who are hurting in the heart of their hurt, rather than trying to coax them out of it with glib and unhelpful platitudes, the utterance of which is motivated by our own fear.

Perhaps our choice of words could be more like this: “I don’t know. I have no answers. But I am here with you.”

Once again, thank you for your support. Hold tenderly that which you love and cherish.

Merry Christmas and God Bless Us, Every One.

Patricia x

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3 Comments on “A Fragile Place”

  1. Anna Morton December 23, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Thank you Tricia, once again so beautifully written, putting complicated thoughts into luminously clear light.

    Sent from my iPad

  2. belllettres December 23, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Merry Christmas Anna. Thanks for always taking the time to write such lovely comments. x

  3. Nige December 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    A theology that has to have God tightly controlling every detail in the world makes God into a monster. I see a God doing something about evil in the world by sending his son Jesus, something we celebrate at Xmas, to break into history by dying for both the victim and the perpetrator (of which we are both), a God who walks with us in our valleys of deap shadows, who cries with us when we cry, who brings hope of a better future into the present.

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