I once read about a woman who was living through dark days and she signed up for one of those spiritual weekends led by catholic sisters at a retreat center. She checked into the dormitory on the campus, and as she got on the elevator to find her room, she was joined by a nun.
The nun asked her how she was doing that day, and for some reason the woman just blurted it all out.
“My mother just died, my husband is leaving me, and I got laid off at work. I have a lump that the doctor biopsied last week – waiting for the results – and I think I’m going out of my mind.”
The nun said, “Wow, God must love you very much.”
Then the elevator doors opened and the sister walked off without another word.
Standing there stunned in the open elevator, the woman hadn’t the slightest idea what the nun meant by her statement, and as a re-teller of the story, I must confess I don’t either. I mostly think you’d have to be unspeakably cruel or bat-shit crazy to say something like that to someone who was suffering so much.
Unless, maybe – and this is a big maybe – you believed in healing and new life. But I mean, you’d have to REALLY believe in it. Not just think it was a nice idea, not just talk about it because it’s something positive people say. The conventions of optimism are meaningless during the really dark days. To say what the nun said, you’d have to truly believe in new life, and let’s be honest, it’s not that believable.
To speak of God’s love for a person living through hell would require true conviction that God reaches for us in the depths, holds us in our anguish, and will restore strength and courage to our broken spirits and shattered souls. It would require a belief that God’s love is great enough to meet our most bitter suffering and our deepest despair.
The idea of that is almost too much to fathom, and you couldn’t even stop there.
You’d have to believe not only that new life can come, you’d have to believe it will. Then, maybe, you might say something as ludicrous as what that nun said.
She’s just crazy, I think.
Because seriously, that would take a lot of love.