Sunday, October 16, 2011

Soul Therapy

I’ve been hobbling like Quasimodo for too long--it was really doing a number on my self-esteem until I finally broke down and went to visit with my doctor. I hurt my knee pivoting the wrong way, and between this and back pain, work stress, and personal demons, my life has been a little tumult of calamity, which of course descends all at once. Isn’t that how it usually goes?

A little soul therapy along with referrals to anti-inflammatory medicine and PT helped. This month, therapy was watching a movie with friends: the recently acclaimed Of Gods and Men, about a community of Trappist monks living in Algeria in the 1990s enduring the terrorism there at the time, witnessing the extraordinary ordinary of everyday life for the villagers there, and confronting their own personal demons. Their monastery was a place for villagers to come and receive medical care. Just that--the compassion with which the Trappists shared with their Algerian community--was inspirational enough. What really set it over the edge for me was the way in which the men grappled with maintaining their commitment to them, to their own way of life, and to God, without sacrificing one bit of the humanity which made them weak, made them want to hide sometimes from imminent danger. The most touching part for me was the one monk who found he had to pray and talk aloud to God in the middle of the night, torn between his path of faith and the apprehension terrorist throat-slashing had lodged in his daymares.

I don’t know how many times I’ve felt that way--like I want to hide from the difficulties, decisions, and discipline of everyday life. I do not live in community like the monks did, but I recognize my own community, my responsibility to it, the ways in which being mother, wife, teacher, Franciscan, friend, daughter and sister and cousin (from afar) create challenges to my understanding of life on a daily basis. I have always been beyond grateful for the kind of people who have surrounded me all my life. Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky, but should I really question the given gift of grace, which time and again has come to me?

For that matter, should I question the reality of human life: that we will and must suffer, and that we need to learn in our suffering how to be even more human? I know many would balk at the suggestion, for the injustice of suffering has long created questions and doubt in the world. In truth, no one hopes to suffer. What’s certain is that every time I have suffered mentally, physically, and emotionally, I have, in time, created a deeper relationship with God, with myself, and with others involved. Even though in the now I might not be able to see how the chaos of my life will right itself, I believe it will, and that I will see purpose untangle itself from the mess.