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The Oneness of Suffering (Friends and God)

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“Friends and God” are personal reflections from a selection of Friends on how they define God.

As the lightening bolts begin to split the night air, I realize that I am standing in the middle of a prairie field. Surrounded by darkness as black as coal, I can just make out the wood’s edge during the flashes of light. The dense forest is a potential place of refuge compared to the open grassland, but I stay put, continuing to yell in anguish at the sky, at God, and at the universe. My heart is so fractured I don’t care about the danger that makes me jump each time a jolt of electricity is let loose. I dare God to take me out, do me in, and drop me in my tracks. I welcome an end to the unbearable psychic and embodied pain threatening to rend me in half.

A thunderous clap is the only response I hear. My anger increases, and I curse with despairing rage in the direction of the boom. After losing so much over the past year that defined me—my home, my work, my relationship, my identity—I discovered today that my treasured canine companion has cancer with only a few weeks to live. How could God, the Beloved, let this happen? How could God not see my fragility, or comprehend my need for uncomplicated love, or answer my prayers of safekeeping for all beings?

Why? Why now? Why at all? My dog has been my bedrock, my best friend, my confidant, and my teacher. We have had 13 years together beginning with the day he mysteriously appeared on my back porch at only six weeks old. He has seen me through all of the wrenching choices, the letting go … through picking up the pieces and moving forward. My grief over this impending new loss is so intense that I doubt I have the reserves to survive it. I fall to the ground sobbing, unable to care about whether I live or die. I beg God to release me from my sorrow.

The clouds open and warm rain begins to pour in drops so big and heavy that they make indentations in the sandy soil. My clothes are getting soaked. I close my eyes as the water washes over me in sheets. The drenching liquid penetrates my anger, my pain, my suffering, and relaxes their hardness. My tension begins to ease, and I am aware that the earth is embracing me closely, supporting my strained body. Nature is comforting me, rinsing me clean of my anguish, fears, and loss, while wrapping her sandy, grassy arms around me. Over time, I begin to feel the Beloved’s presence everywhere. It dawns on me: God has been here the entire time, holding me intimately like a cherished child, suffering with my suffering, and bestowing compassion through the elements of earth and water.

Sinking into this sacred space—this spot of land—I allow the impending death of my heart mate to register fully. I open to the incredible pain and grant the rain permission to bathe and soothe my grief. I am losing a precious loved one, as so many before me have experienced, and so many after me will, too. Exposed to the oneness of suffering, I feel the bittersweet grief that can only come from such a deep reservoir of love. Bereavement is part of the human condition, and this bonds me to all those experiencing penetrating sorrow. On solid ground, I say a prayer for all of us, resurrect my body, and head for home to be with the one I adore in his final days.

Julie Hliboki, Atlanta, Ga.

Posted in: June/July 2014: Concepts of God, Reflection, Unfeatured

One thought on “The Oneness of Suffering (Friends and God)

  1. City & State
    Harrisonburg, VA
    Julie, what a beautiful and passionate essay you’ve written. Like the electricity in the atmosphere, these words have the power to transform suffering. Your life before, during, and after this time of trial has inspired me. Keep writing!

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