Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Faith, and What Happens

This morning, my devotional readings included this (from writer Matthieu Ricard):

We want the world to allow the unconditional fulfilment of all our aspirations,
and since this does not happen, we fall prey to suffering.
Our search for happiness is more often founded on our illusions than on reality.
It is pointless to try to shape the world to fit our desires: we must transform our minds.

...and this, by Richard Rohr (about a visit to Lourdes, France):

Faith is never going to be anything other than faith, and it's never going to be easy...

We see people, unbelievably crippled on the exterior, being wheeled up to the shrine, into the grotto. Our hearts ache for them, and we feel so lucky to have bodies that allow us to walk around.

We are forced to ask the question after the blessing with the sick, after the dipping in the water, Well, why aren't they healed? And if you and I are asking that, imagine how they are asking that. And yet, can you believe the joy, although it must be tinged with disappointment, that we see on so many of their faces?

The miracle of Lourdes is a miracle of faith. It's a miracle that is not immediately visible: People are not always healed. And yet we have to believe something deeply life-giving is happening here, and that's God's work. God is creating life on earth. Just hold on to that. It happens in a thousand different ways, and the most important ways are in the heart.

Isn't it interesting that faith can mean so many things at different points in our lives? It meant something different to me when I was a Christian Scientist than it means to me now, and it sounds as if it means something different to the Buddhist writer (Matthieu Ricard) than it does to Fr. Rohr. Yet I have a similar impression, when I read their words.

Last summer, at this time, we were all adjusting after the children's week at Camp Goodtimes. Katie was having increasing back pain, which I assumed was a residual effect of her enormous surgery and her increased activity (as well as sleeping on a camp bed for the previous week). I arranged for her to have massage, physical therapy (one-on-one, mat and swimming pool therapy) and consulted with the Hem-Onc clinic. They had assured us that this was a slow-growing cancer, and that with scans every 3 months, we would be able to see any increased tumor activity, and address it. Katie's last scan had been in May.

I did not think that Katie's increased pain was cancer. I thought she was getting better. I wanted her to recover from her surgery, have remission from cancer, and have her life back again. I wanted her to be rewarded for all of the pain and suffering that she endured in order to get well. I wanted her to have her childhood back, even though I knew she would be changed by her experiences. I wanted her to have love, joy, freedom, peace and her dreams-coming-true.

It didn't happen that way. It isn't a slow-growing cancer; it is a monster that grew another tumor --as big as the first one-- between May and July.

"People are not always healed."

I wanted "the unconditional fulfilment of all [my] aspirations" for Katie, and what I got was her terminal diagnosis, and to walk through it with my daughter, until I had to watch her die.

That's certainly enough to make me sit for a long time with my "faith," and wonder. Clearly, I have no choice but to transform my mind... or to allow God to transform it, which is what I prefer.

I love God. I believe with all of my heart that God loves each one of us. But faith is no guarantee that what I want to happen, will happen. My faith, today, looks more like an attempt to walk in as much love as I can, being open to, and thankful for, the miracles of God's hands, and being as good-natured as possible about my disappointments. Some days my faith is strong, and some days it is weak. I believe that is natural, and acceptable.


HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Karen, this is just beautiful, and so touching, and so true. Faith enables us to hold on to God when everything in our (wee little human) minds say "NO! This isn't FAIR!" and to walk THROUGH the flames and THROUGH the valley of darkness.

I think, when it boils down to it, faith is holding tightly onto God's hand (and having the faith of a little child), while we're walking through the dark, and trusting HIM, despite what all our sense tell us.

God bless you, Karen - you are a strong, amazing woman.

BIG HUG from me to you! :-)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

How do you do it? I lost my son almost 5 years ago and I am truly not as strong as you? I really think you just became my idol for being so strong.
You may email me at

Karla W. said...

Sending hugs your way.

Dawn ~ ^i^Brandon^i^, Jordan, & Seth's Mom said...

I came across your page in the same way some people come to either my family blog page or my son, Brandon's caringbridge page. You know, that page to page visit that ends up uniting your hearts through either the same feelings or roads that are travled.

I just wanted to let you know that your post was beautiful and touched my heart in a very "same" way. I too, am walking this journey, with some days an easier walk than other days. I read something not long ago that spoke volumes to my heart and it is....Faith does not prevent life, it is what gets you through life. I hope it speaks to you as well. I have enjoyed reading your post, and getting to know your family and your prescious Katie. I pray that God would give you something "special" today just from him and just for your heart!