#12: Janus-faced pain.

***This is the twelfth of a series of posts based on a book I’m reading for a class called Connections in Religious and Ecological Education entitled Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation. The chapter is “Reborn in the Flames,” by Nandini Iyer.

Nandini Iyer reflects on the two-faced blessing of fire: destruction and generation, crisis and opportunity, warmth and burning.  I’ve been thinking during the last month or so about blessings, and how often the directions and situations we find ourselves facing seem, like a devastating fire, to be at first glance simply unconquerable misfortunes.  Whether of our own doing or others, it’s so difficult to see what good could possibly come from pain.  One of the things I value so much in the Hebrew Bible is its theme of stories that tell us to remember how God has acted within and through apparently unredeemable moments in history.  There are so many platitudes about not knowing the will of God, things being in God’s plan, the mystery of God’s purpose… I’m not talking about empty comfort, band-aid responses to make ourselves feel momentarily better, as though there simply has to be meaning in this.  Honestly, sometimes there isn’t meaning in pain, despite our desire for it.  What I do believe, and what I appreciate Nandini exploring, is the idea that each destruction holds within it a small, sometimes invisible, but always present opportunity for God to act redemptively, using the very nature of that destruction for some kind of good, even if we can’t immediately see what that might be.  I don’t know that God always does this – and I don’t know why.  But it is good to live in the tension of possibility, and to hope.



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