We live in a finite world where everything is dying, shedding its strength. This is hard to accept, and all our lives we look for exceptions to it. We look for something strong, undying, infinite. Religion tells us that something is God. Great, we say, we’ll attach ourselves to this strong God. Then this God comes along and says, “Even I suffer. Even I participate in the finiteness of this world.” Thus Clare and Francis’ image of God was not an “almighty” and strong God, but in fact a poor, vulnerable, and humble one like Jesus. This is at the heart of the Biblical and Franciscan worldview.
The enfleshment and suffering of Jesus is saying that God is not apart from the trials of humanity. God is not aloof. God is not a mere spectator. God is not merely tolerating or even healing all human suffering. Rather, God is participating with us—in all of it—the good and the bad! I wonder if people can avoid becoming sad and cynical about the tragedies of history if they do not know this.
From Richard Rohr. A follow up to the last snappit from the Pastrix – which was pulled from what for me is one of the most impactful of its chapters (that would be chapter 8, “Clinical Pastoral Education”).
Nadia describes feeling the presence of God in the midst of children grieving the loss of their mother – and just wanting “to slap the hell out of him or her or it.”
She followed up with this comment:
“You hear a lot of nonsense in hospitals and funeral homes. God had a plan, we just don’t know what it is. Maybe God took your daughter because He needs another angel in heaven. But when I’ve experienced loss and felt so much pain that it feels like nothing else ever existed, the last thing I need is a well-meaning but vapid person saying that when God closes a door he opens a window. It makes me want to ask where exactly that window is so I can push him the fuck out of it.”
Yes, Nadia expresses herself with such marvelous delicacy.
But when dealing with pain that does make you feel like nothing else ever existed, there’s not much room for delicacy, is there? It’s one of the reasons that chapter so speaks to me.
And then comes Rohr. While Rohr is seldom indelicate, he is always incisive.
In our suffering we tend to experience God as outside of it all, watching, a omnipotent bystander who by all rights could and should be able to do something, but he just sits there, stands there, whatever, letting it all happen anyway. Helping it all happen anyway? And for his glory? Yes, let me slap that.
And that’s what I appreciate about Rohr’s musing. He taps right into main line of biblical teaching when it comes to suffering – though we seldom perceive it. God participates in our suffering. In all of it. He feels each deep wound, screams in each terror, groans in each injustice more profoundly than we can begin to fathom.
We groan. Creation groans. God groans.
We need more Nadias in our grief. We need more groaners. And permission to slap all the rest.
We desperately need the “biblical and Franciscan view” that Rohr highlights. What a revelation. Our hymns and loud worship songs tend to extol the Mighty God “smashing the nations with a rod of iron” etc etc etc. Truth in that, there is. All those who suffer under the boot of injustice are counting on it. But it must be balanced with the weak, poor, vulnerable God we see in the face of Jesus. Contemplating that face, I see instead of the Mighty God, the pathetically caged, shriveled, helpless Doctor of the season three ender of Who. And I know I just lost you if you’re not a Whovian, if I didn’t lose you with Nadia.
Wow. What a combo. What whiplash, Pastrix to Doctor Who.
Something like the whiplash moving from Mighty God to helpless, caged, suffering lord.
May more of us suffer it.