Sorrow and grief have been my companions this year. They are not my only companions, but they have been quite faithful companions. Melancholy I can tolerate, but this particular sorrow seems to be more uncomfortable for me. And together with the ache of grief, hopelessness has settled in. It is quite the tea party. And since I am a champion of feeling all of one’s feelings, I am listening with compassion and curiosity and learning to understand what they are teaching me.
As I hold these complicated feelings, I also long for hope. And while hope can come with bits of joy or eagerness, you don’t usually get to hope without going through despair. Despair comes in and breaks your heart and tries to crush your spirit, and just when you think all is lost, hope tiptoes into the room.
As I wait for the pulse of hope to enter into the room, I go to my teacher, Thomas Merton.
“We learn to know Him, now, not in the “presence” that is found in abstract consideration-a presence in which we dress Him in our own finery-but in the emptiness of a hope that may come close to despair. For perfect hope is achieved on the brink of despair when, instead of falling over the edge, we find ourselves walking on the air. Hope is always just about to turn into despair, but never does so, for at the moment of supreme crisis God’s power is suddenly made perfect in our infirmity. So we learn to expect His mercy most calmy when all is most dangerous, to seek Him quietly in the face of peril, certain that He cannot fail us though we may be upbraided by the just and reject by thoughts to claim to hold the evidence of His love.”
~Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island, Mercy 1
For perfect hope is achieved on the brink of despair when, instead of falling over the edge,
we find ourselves walking on the air.
Oh, yes. I remember. I know this is true. I also go to the poets, who soothe me as I languish and comfort me as I wait.
you must trust the source
on and below your skin
that there are oceans to cradle you
that contain untameable power
to move the unmoving world
knocking at the door
of the whole world deep inside
Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow?
It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
For those who suffer,
and those who cry this night,
give them repose, Lord;
a pause in their burdens.
Let there be minutes
where they experience peace,
not of man
but of angels.
Love them, Lord,
when others cannot.
Hold them, Lord,
when we fail with human arms.
Hear their prayers
and give them the ability to hear You back
in whatever language they best understand.
~Margaret A. Davidson
So to all of us feeling the sorrow and despair, hang on dear ones, hope is on her way.