"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

During the Darkest Night

“It’s better, now, isn’t it Patti? Wasn’t the divorce for the best?” a well-meaning relative asked one night when she came into Staples. 

The questions seemed reasonable. But with a second divorce, after 18 years of trying everything possible to hold my marriage together, I knew better. Media may portray divorce as a simple solution. So may those eager to “get on with life” and start dating. But unless an individual deals with the problems, more than likely they are doomed to repeat the mistakes. Divorce is awful—for the kids and the parents. In my opinion, those who pretend it’s not are in denial.

My response reflected the hard lessons, I’d learned. “No. I’ll have to live with the consequences of this for the rest of my life. My children will never have the role models, I so badly wanted for them. With every event they’ll have to decide who to invite. And, financially, I’ve been devastated. That’s why I’m working a second job here in the copy center. It’s not what I want, but I have no choice.”

Difficult as my marriage was, it took two years to process the pain of that divorce and begin to come out the other side. A wise friend said something one day that helped. “Different doesn’t have to be bad, it’s just different.” One day while sitting on a beach that truth began to sink in, and I finally started to live it.

Viktor Frankl adds even more profound insight into suffering circumstances beyond our control. There’s nothing to be happy about in a concentration camp. Or, is there? In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl explains a concept that can bring a ray of sunshine into the darkest gloom. He was on a work detail when images of his wife transported him above his circumstance:

“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a moment, in the contemplation of his beloved [emphasis mine]. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.”

Yet, what if it's the “beloved," who commits horrendous betrayal creating the very pain and suffering that’s so devastating? Even with the best intentions, people fail one another all the time.  Still, I believe Frankl was onto something: “the salvation of man is through love and in love.” When the beloved is One who is fully human so He can relate to every circumstance we suffer and fully Divine so He can be not just a momentary vision, but a constant companion, it changes everything including one’s attitude.

In the next post, we’ll consider "how." Two writing deadlines may make my posts the next week a bit sporadic. To automatically receive the next update, you can go to the bottom of the blog and click on "Subscribe to posts."

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