How to Live with What We Cannot Entirely Dispel by Fran Salone-Pelletier

It’s mid-Lent, Laetare Sunday to be exact, and the readings lend themselves to thoughts of light and darkness, good and evil, living, dying and rising. A poem emerges within my troubled spirit. It announces hope though all I can see before me is darkness. The deep drags me down. I look for solace and cannot find it. Are my aspirations more than most can hear or bear or care about?

My mind races with a medley of thoughts and scraps of verses from songs once sung with lusty hope. I hear God’s voice begging: “All I ask of you is forever to be loving me.” And I respond with vigor tinged with vehemence. I can forever be loving an invisible God who speaks through clouds and angelic voices. But the visible God in my life has a disturbingly dissonant voice.

This God bears a human demeanor. This God asks of me what I cannot bear to hear, or even care to know. This one bears a burden too loathsome to carry. This one points determinedly to a crucifix as proof of love, a cross that bids my own crucifixion in response. I cannot bear that thought. I cannot contain the pain. I cannot endure the scourging at pillars which do not allow protest, not even groans of grace. Only voiceless compliance is acceptable. And I am not a silent sufferer. 

I want to join the list of lamenters who commingle pain and hope. Not a frivolous desire, this “want” is a woe of its own. It comes with and through a soulful spirit being emptied of all that once gave life, and is now systematically depleted within a call of crosses that do not evoke holiness. They only offer death and label it sanctity.

The voice of God once gently beckoning and generously embracing now sounds a stridency of unbending confrontation. The forever-loving God demands my forever-loving submission, even to that which is killing my spirit. At least that is how I feel. And I cannot live this way.

I must be allowed to speak my sorrow. I cannot continue to deny my dying when living is so precious. I cannot pretend that all is well when I am not. I cannot be silent in the presence of a church which praises the silence of laypeople as sanctifying and labels ecclesial speech as sanctified. There is no acknowledgement of grace in the gifted speech of naysayers. It is only viewed as grumbling. To make it clear, an arm is raised with a finger pointing to the silent body of a dying savior who gave his life to save us from our sinfulness. How dare we speak out in complaint? How dare we refuse to live silently with our laments? How dare we refuse to forever love what is killing us?

In the quagmire, a poem emerges. It arrives bearing the banner of forever loving all that is, even when banner is tattered and torn. It comes from deep within a heartsick spirit. It bursts forth in a shattered, splintered, soul-deep cry. It asks and answers and asks again. The questions will never cease. The answers will fade as responses take hold. I know I’ll never be totally at peace. I also know that there will be a certain peacefulness as I ponder the light in the darkness and process the darkness in the light.

I know that my Laetare Sunday does not reflect a joy that is outwardly manifest, as one would expect. Mine is an inward contemplation of joy wrapped in sorrow and sorrow lightened by joy. Mine is an entry into the mystery of being a God-lover who has trouble loving the God who dwells in those whose presence does not evoke my holiness. Sadly, they are more likely to erode it or test it. Forever loving is hard to do. 

I can only hold firmly to the promise expressed in the Gospel according to John, where it is written, “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that the works they do may be clearly seen as done in God” (Jn 3:21).

So, I live the truth of my own dismay, the truth of the fragility of my virtue. I live the honesty of my darkness as well as my pursuit of the light. And I believe as best I can that the truth will come to light when I least expect it. It will finally be clearly seen as done in God. And I will know, as if for the first time, there is light in the darkness while yet there is darkness in the light.

This will be all I ask of God, because I will know that God is forever loving me. This knowledge will become wisdom. This wisdom will be enough for me to love others as habitats of divinity. And I will discover that I can live with my laments; I can live with what I cannot entirely dispel. There is light in my darkness.

Light in the Dark

Is there such a thing as nocturnal bliss?
Can I find light in the dark night?
Questions toss and turn 
in circles and cycles
fleeting shadows disturb
and yet do not destroy
empowering while enervating
prompting rapid answers 
yet demanding ardent response
Do I need the light to see
or do I see the light?
In the darkest time of night
a tipping point emerges
glimmers of hope poke
holes in my hopelessness
and I list my laments 
to a weeping divinity
as God embraces my frailty
lightens the masses of messes
the darkness becomes dawn
I can live with all I cannot dispel

– Laetare Sunday, 14 March 2021

Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives (a trilogy of scriptural meditations), lead volunteer chaplain at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. She can be reached at hope5@atmc.net.

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