There is a lot of suffering in this world of ours. I usually resist this reality by wondering why, but this week, it’s been so present all around me in big and small ways, in the news and in the lives of those I love, that fighting it seemed inconsiderate to those who were experiencing it.
Grace and unforeseen good fortune are also always present. A lot of good things happened this week. I made some pretty spectacular chocolate icing, for example. I’m sure larger good things happened, too—all around us people fell in love, children were born into loving families, forgiveness sprang up in hearts that hadn’t even been looking for it.
I am always wondering why these co-exist and weighing one against the other to figure out which one comes out on top, as if that would answer some fundamental question. Aside from the problem of my being infinitely too small to take this census, I don’t think it would give any better answer to life, the universe, and everything than Douglas Adams’s conclusion of 42.
The problem is looking at the whole thing as if there were an answer, as if it were understandable. Richard Rohr says the problem with a college education is that then you think you deserve an explanation for everything. But each moment of loving-kindness and each moment of grief is immeasurable and inexplicable. Jim Finley says, who can measure the love of a married couple? Who can measure the beauty of a hummingbird or the tragedy of a child being shot?
So this week I attempted to allow grace and suffering to coexist. This was quite generous of me seeing as they do already coexist. I cried a lot and lost sight of this reality a lot, but this is what I’m beginning to believe is true:
Life is not given to us so that we can understand it; it is given to us to love. It is not an affair of the head; it is an affair of the heart. This doesn’t mean seek out suffering or justify it. It means be present to it because it’s here and so are we. And if, as Finley says, love is the only thing that is real, if we can be the love that we are, surely the world will be transformed.