Monday, January 5, 2009

Finding Acceptance Amid the Ugliness of Life

As every reader knows, perhaps from personal experience, our world is replete with horrors: children and adults violated by those who are supposed to love them; incapacitating injuries and illnesses; tragic deaths; abject poverty; war, genocide and other atrocities.

If such realities don't toss you into spiritual turmoil at times, your faith is stronger than most.

My gravest spiritual crisis came in the first years after graduate school when I worked in a program that specialized in the treatment of child sexual abuse. There is simply nothing like a 5-year-old rape victim to make one question one's spiritual beliefs.

As these children shared their experiences with me, I was carried into a full-blown spiritual storm that raged for many months, fueled by my inability to accept that such cruelty exists. Divine intercession seemed a lie, and I increasingly referred to myself as agnostic.

One day, though, something spontaneously shifted. I happened upon a line in a book stating that certain things are not ours to understand.

Hardly a novel concept, I realize. Yet as often happens when the timing is true, those few simple words penetrated my funk and entered my heart.

My outrage and confusion were based on the assumption that I should understand why life was as it was. Me, with this limited human brain. What arrogance!

Something within me relaxed in that moment, and a process began which ultimately transformed my life and my work.

I grew to acknowledge that while there may be nothing like a 5-year-old rape victim to make one question the existence of God, there is also nothing like witnessing her heal to reinforce that Spirit is ever available, if only we can open to it.

As I watched my small clients expand beyond their wounding in a way that could only be described as miraculous, I increasingly sensed an unfathomable Presence sharing the room with us. I learned to listen for and trust the guidance that was always available, ceaselessly flowing.

I was no longer paralyzed by those realities lying beyond my realm of understanding. More and more, I allowed my focus to be called instead to that which lived and breathed within my sphere of influence.

I learned to do what was mine to do and no more. I knew, too, that doing so was not the same as condoning the harm done, nor did it excuse me from working for societal change.

But there was more. My acceptance that there were things beyond my comprehension did not arrive with a passive resignation; it bloomed with an active reverence.

Nearly two decades after that pivotal moment, the not knowing which had previously tormented me, now inspires an awe of the vast Mystery that is the cosmos and the small part that is my own slice. I have come to embrace more fully the unknowns and ambiguities of life as evidence of the Divine expressed through the confines of human experience.

Today as I sit with clients of all ages, I am still touched by the pain of their experience. However, I also feel the Spirit that moves just below the surface and forever seeks a toehold to rise into our consciousness.

Each of us is continually presented with the raw material of a human life. As in any artistic endeavor, we are called to craft a thing of beauty from whatever comes our way.

This alone is our task. The rest is outside our jurisdiction.

I wish you well in making peace with life's ugliness and would love to hear about your efforts.


Loanne Marie

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