What do each of us desire in 2017? No doubt material plenty, peace, prosperity, career success, good fortune, and our most ardent ambitions come to life.
Few of us wish for more suffering. Yet in its very testing our soul reveals a dazzling, sumptuous cornucopia of hidden gems.
In their book Christ in the Margins, Lentz and Gately (2003) describe saints who struggled with inner darkness, poverty, shunning from peers, abandonment, and physical illness – invisible agonies in the private gardens of their lives. Similarly, in the sanctuary of Trung Tâm Công Giáo Vietnamese Catholic Center, reside floor to ceiling reliefs that depict Vietnamese martyrs suffering at the hands of intolerant rulers: some flogged with rods, trampled by elephants, pinced with hot irons, suffocated by ropes, beheaded, body parts severed, each one of them experiencing a horrific death in the pursuit and defense of truth. Their commitment to a higher calling robbed them of fear – or perhaps propelled them forth in spite of it. Martyrs die to self, accepting their crowns of suffering to provide a universally accessible legacy. What appears to us as self-immolation is just one step in the process.
Throughout life, we experience a litany of seemingly unrelated misfortunes. Objects with blunt edged force that expose souls’ inner treasure.
To be accessible, adversity must be combined with insight, life lessons, and views from those within similar predicaments. Melissa Moody explains that despite a tragic accident (which left her face disfigured), she is now happier than ever, and more grounded than the former beauty queen who took things for granted. A singular violent act can instigate alchemy in shiny (yet superficial) outer trappings.
Courageous individuals have chronicled their journeys with sudden loss, forgiveness, wrongful incarceration, weight loss, anxiety, PTSD as a result of bullying, marital infidelity and divorce – so that we need not experience the school of hard knocks by ourselves. So that we can see, in the words of Quoyle, “Abuse is not love.” People benefit when “every day saints” put themselves on display; when they allow fissures to be used for their rightful purpose. Tight fisted commiseration on our own misery benefits no one; similarly, miserly hoarding of woeful tales spawns flesh eating awareness.
Small acts of sharing may appear insignificant, but they are baby steps in fulfilling life’s purpose. Notwithstanding, sea urchins (and eggs) must be cracked open to provide sustenance; so too, only ripped gift wrapping and boxes in the raw can delight the recipients.
Sometimes tearing occurs all at once; occasionally, little rifts occur across a lifetime to beget discernment. How can we write about something unless we have viewed it at eye level? Or describe the terrain if we have never seen the territory? Missing steps make for a tasteless final product.
A life absent challenge is a meandering journey of non-substance; a life not worth remembering. Soul craft (masked as daily struggle) refines our purpose.