In the quote above, Mother Teresa seems to be saying that it is a good thing to be kissed by Jesus. I'm not so sure, as I think He has kissed me far too many times. There is no greater dispenser of hard lessons than life, eh? My faith in God has never been shaken, even when he took my beloved and darling Karen. That is not to say that I was not hurt, angry, or extremely disappointed in how things turned out, but it seems God knows that I can endure those things. To give us free will was to insure that in addition to the horrible things that life dealt to us, we would also do horrible and terrible things to each other as well as loving, healing, and wonderful things. The fact that, to my mind, creation is continuing and producing earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves (I couldn’t spell the other word), tornadoes, and hurricanes whose swath of death and destruction seems to know no bounds is another of those hard lessons we have to learn. We don’t have to build our houses on the beaches where hurricanes happen often, or to gather in villages in the shadow of a volcano, but we seem to do it over and over again. We really like to have control over our lives and the lives of those we love, but it isn’t to be, is it? We cannot control where or when lightening will strike, or where a tornado will touch down. My wife died of a massive stroke. She was not the first nor the last. Many, many have suffered the loss of loved one to a massive stroke. We cannot control who gets cancer, but we have all been touched by it. We cannot control when a crazed gunman will open fire in an elementary school (and not just in the U.S.—Google Dunblane in Scotland, fifteen students and one teacher dead in 1996) nor can we control when a man will build a bomb and blow up a government building in Oklahoma City, killing hundreds including small children. (When that happened, I was living in a small town in Arkansas, and a man loudly proclaimed in a public place that whenever we found out what country the bomber was from, we should annihilate the whole country with nuclear bombs. When he found out an American had done it, he said nothing.) My point is that we cannot insulate ourselves or build adequate protection to keep us from losing loved ones, having cancer attack our bodies, or slowly losing our memories to Alzheimers disease. We do what we can to minimize risk: we fasten our seat belts, we build tornado shelters, we evacuate areas when hurricanes are coming, we try to eat and live healthy lives, but as Gilda Radner wrote, “It’s always something.”
What can we count on? God. God has never abandoned us, never left us alone, never failed to do whatever was possible to keep us going. God gave His only Son to suffer and die on the cross that we should not perish but have eternal life. God has already made the ultimate sacrifice. All He asks of us is to trust Him. Maybe everything won’t be all right in this world, but it will be in the next. Maybe He is asking us to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about others. While I am hurting, I can still hear our little orphans laughing and singing. Maybe He wants us to live lives exemplified by kindness and not hate or resentment or bitterness. I have personally known several survivors of the Holocaust and only one was bitter and full of hate. The others smiled and carried on with love in their hearts and a twinkle still in their eyes. One such woman, Clara, was in one of my classes where we were studying the Book of Job. I asked her how she could still be so positive about life after all the undeserved suffering she had endured. She smiled, reached over and put her hand on my arm and said quietly, “God gives, God takes away, blessed be His name.” That was all she said, but it silenced me and has given me great comfort through my own struggles, especially in the last months. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always control our response to it. Christ showed us the way.