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Faith My Family Personal

Great love and great suffering

There are only two major paths by which the human soul comes to God: the path of great love, and the one of great suffering. Both finally come down to great suffering—because if we love anything greatly, we will eventually suffer for it.

When we’re young, God hides this from us. We think it won’t have to be true for us. But to love anything in depth and over the long term, we eventually must suffer.

Richard Rohr – Life Coming to a Focus Daily Meditation

I’ve often remembered this thought from Richard Rohr – said in different times and different ways, but basically: the path to transformation is either great love, or great suffering.

I used to hear it and struggle to imagine the great suffering. My life has usually been pretty comfortable.

But he’s right, if you open up enough to experience love, then you’re opening yourself up to suffering too.

Parenting has been that journey for me.

A greater love than I knew was there. More pressure than I knew I’d face. More resilience than I could have imagined I’d had, and more than I thought I’d need. More awareness of my own fragility. More delight too.

Our family is definitely still in the pressure cooker. Its hard to say what the lessons learned will be, what the transformation might look like from the other side. For now, it’s hard to get through, and not much sense of hope for change.

Remembering this thought from Richard Rohr gives a glimpse of purpose to the love and suffering of parenting. Maybe this is one of the paths to God.

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Faith Personal

Smaller miracles

It was haunting last night to walk into the hospital and see my Grandpa.

I watched my Dad pray for his Dad. As a pastor he’s prayed for many people. It’s hard to pray for someone who may well be on their deathbed. I imagine it’s harder still when it’s your dad. “Father of mercies…” he prayed.

What mercy can you ask for? It felt too late to pray for a miracle. At that age, and with cancers already leaving visible scars all over the body, you only ask for small miracles. For relief from pain, for peace, for comfort for our family.

Yet even a healing at this late stage, miraculous as it would be, would only be a small miracle.

The bigger miracle is the one that already happened. In my 26 years I’ve only ever known my Gramps as fun loving, and family loving. When he’d play jokes on us, (which he did often, he loved it), his heart was always warm, and it was fun. It wasn’t always that way apparently. I don’t know the full story, but there was alcohol, there was aggression, and he was described, light on the details, as “not a very nice person”. Until Jesus changed him. A change in personality and in heart, of that magnitude, is not common. It’s a miracle, a redemptive act of God that took something broken and made it better, made it beautiful. It is no small miracle that I only ever knew the beautiful heart of my Grandpa.

The other miracle is that the next time I see my Grandpa, the cancer will be gone from his body, his face will be young again (younger and stronger and happier than I’ve ever seen). The fragile, hurting body I saw last night will be restored and perfected. And he’ll be with his wife Shirley again, surely as happy in that moment as in the moment captured in the wedding photo on our family room. And his kids. And us grandkids. The redemption of people: our bodies, our hearts, our relationships. That miracle is huge.

After walking out last night I struggled with finding the mercy in an old man suffering. And my faith for miraculous healings isn’t what it used to be. Today when I got the call from my Dad though, amidst the tears was a gratefulness, and a hopefulness, for the greater miracles.