‘As long as this exists,’ I thought, ‘and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy.’ The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. — Anne Frank
On Monday, after everyone in my household had gone to school, I got on my bike in search of my own solace. I usually ride in order to challenge myself physically and mentally. This time, my choice was to ride down the River Road to Richmond and enjoy the sunshine and the cloudless skies. Because it’s dirt, slow-going, and relatively hill-less, I never ride that way. Monday was different. And my ride was beautiful and helpful.
But it was not everything. Still wounded by the simmering, suffering wounds of my own children, I felt helpless and even, I have to say, hopeless.
It was not until I set to work reflecting on what I “know” about truth, and life and God, that I was able to clear away the hopelessness and share my grief with God and embrace life again. When Alfred North Whitehead famously wrote that “religion is what one does with one’s solitariness,” he did not mean only Anne Frank’s sense of it as in the above quotation. The solitariness in question has to do with our encounter with God in the space of what we “know” to be true about life and love and the good, wherein we make a decision to live as though that knowledge makes a difference — to live for God and to discover in that living, again, the great gift of life — that nothing, not death nor life, nor angles nor principalities, nor height nor depth, can separate us from the love of God.
I hope you’ve had some time to do some of your own processing these great questions that were thrown in our faces by this sad, sad tragedy. Even if that is the case for you, it will not be easy. And while I look forward to being with you this Sunday to walk through some of the stuff that has helped me regain hope, I do not doubt that I will have a difficult time doing it. To be comforted by that primal solace, which I call God, does not mean that it is any easier to speak in the face of this, or that my emotions have all gone. They haven’t. But I’m anxious, in a good way, nevertheless to be with you.
Take good care of one another. See you Sunday.