by Laurie Gudim
Some of the toughest stories I heard as a therapist were the ones in which a child was betrayed by their family. When those who are supposed to nurture, protect and support a kid – to really love them – instead hurt them and use them, they cause incredible psychological damage. The agony of not only being forced to suffer, but of having to do it alone, without assistance or care, without the ability to talk about it with someone who loves us, is profound. It generates a terrible loneliness, a wolf-like insatiable hunger for a belonging that is forever out of reach.
But all of us arrive at the apex of our lives more or less wounded by some such betrayal. Perhaps it wasn’t our family but our schoolmates or teachers who were hurtful. Maybe there were bullies, or, worse, no one paid any attention to us at all. Our co-workers, our support groups, our friends, our churches all ostracize and injure us. Or it might happen that family members die or become impossibly changed by illness or injury. Spouses leave us. Kids grow up and move away.
So we all come to experience some of that loneliness, that profound isolation, that makes us want to howl. And when we reach midlife we begin to realize that the answer to such a bottomless yearning will not be found in the outer world. It is only through a spiritual connection that we begin to learn where we really fit. We belong to God. In God we know that we are part of a oneness that cannot be broken. Belonging to God we also belong thoroughly to one another.
As emissaries of the mysterious, steady and holy love that is God, we are called to ardently become ourselves and also to truly accept one another. Spiritual practices, no matter what they are, if they lead to the deepening of a person’s relationship with God, are to be encouraged. If we do that as communities we become agents of the Creator, helping others to find and form a relationship with the source of all belonging. We become the nurturing, supportive and protective helpers for whom we each yearn.
As Paul says in this passage from his letter to the Romans, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.
Image: Souls of the Righteous, The Last Judgement Detail Icon:The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God. Located at The Annunciation Cathedral Solvychegodsk. 16th century, public domain.