What did you lose and what did you find? I always pose these questions. But maybe what I should be asking all the people who share their smiles and stories is, What DIDN’T you lose? What is it that survived throughout all your pain and suffering?
I went to see an old friend who grew up in the same neighborhood as I did, in a similar household to mine. Neither of us had been exposed to religion as children. Yet, as young girls, we each prayed on our own. And we watched our other friends get confirmed or bat mitzvah-ed. “As long as I can remember I have been on a path to know God better,” my friend told me. “I always had my own connection to God, to Source, to All There Is.”
When we left home for college, we lost track of each other for almost two decades. During that time she explored the spiritual world and grew a strong commitment to God. I’m so in awe of this. Other than my kids and my inherited dog, my connections hang on fragile threads.
My friend is now a psycho-spiritual counselor and interfaith/inter-spiritual minister. Originally trained as a social worker, she went into a seminary and ended up teaching ministers-in-training. From all spiritual paths and traditions. Even atheists. How did she come to love serving God this way, I wondered?
“You don’t just get struck with a spiritual practice. It’s a discipline,” she said. “Like working out, you have to do it every day, seven days a week, in order to maintain connection.”
I asked, “What changed your world?”
“Having my daughter. Having my grandson. Losing my sister. Being diagnosed with cancer, being a three-time breast cancer survivor,” she replied.
“You lost your health. And your sister. How do you reconcile this with God, with your faith?” I asked.
“I believe that nowhere in any sacred text are we promised by God (or any entity or spiritual master), no death, no suffering, no war or sickness…. What I believe we’re promised is that God is there to comfort us. When I cry out in anger, ‘God, how could you…?’ I will be comforted.”
We walked around her yard and she told me she felt connected to earth through the trees, birds, and rocks. There were rocks everywhere. In the garden, on the path leading to her little rock-studded house, and particular piles of rocks that she proudly pointed out. She said, “God is the energy or conscience that moves through all of us and everything.” In my own current state of still thawing out from years of feeling like frozen mud, I’m considering this.
What didn’t you lose? What survived your times of pain?