24 July, 2011

I Can Not Be Thrown Away

      On the day before my discharge from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, a clergyman came to call on me.  I recalled
agreeing to his visit three weeks earlier, when I was first
admitted.  Now, after a particular arduous stay, it seemed, well, irrelevant.  I had found my way without the particular religious salves he might offer: I was fine.  However, I did not banish him from my bedside.  We chatted about the fine work of the Rabbi who had called upon me when my first hip was replaced and I was rehabilitated at Spaulding.  The clergyman explained he was a Baptist, that
he and the Rabbi and the priest who served the hospital had a deep appreciation for each others’ work.  The message that God is present and moving in our lives, even in our darkest hours, is non-denominational.  It was a brief visit, and I felt I had weathered it politely without revealing some of the profound questions that have surfaced in my life recently.
As he was leaving, I saw how tightly the minister was clutching his clipboard – I thought he was clutching the list of faith-seeking patients he might locate by room number.  Instead, he pulled out a sheet from all of the others.  As he did so, he said, “I find we have a lot to learn from each others’ religions.  The Rabbi came to my church to address my parishioners last year.  I would like to leave you with a few words written by a Catholic Cardinal.  Please, when you have a moment, read this over and see if they mean something to you.” I folded the page in thirds and placed it on my blanket before shaking his hand goodbye.  
      As the minster was leaving the room, he paused to talk to my roommate.  The “privacy” curtain was half drawn between our beds; neither of them could see me. Without much thought, I reached for the paper on my bed and unfolded it.  My first thought was that the page-long prayer he left me was like an overly-adorned woman.  The ornate, ritualistic language typical of Catholicism almost managed to obscure the simple, beautiful and powerful message therein. I had no forewarning of my reaction. When I read Cardinal Newman’s prayer and translated it into a language I use myself in praying to God, something broke inside of me. I wept. I tried to do so silently.  I simply couldn’t imagine what was happening. With no Kleenex at hand, I buried my face in my blankets. I tried to restrain the shudders of grief and relief that passed through me. The whole time, I kept my face turned toward the window while I struggled to regain my composure. The message that I am not disposable and that I have a role to play was a powerful one at this time in my life.  I know that I must thank John Henry Cardinal Newman for starting this particular conversation with God.

I am created to reflect God’s glory. The design for me is to serve mankind in a way that is uniquely suited to me and my God-given gifts.  This is my life’s work.  I am uniquely created to do something or to be someone to serve others. My place in the world is one no one else can serve; whether I am rich or poor, despised, or esteemed by others, God knows my heart. I may not understand the role I serve. I listen to the quiet, inner voice that guides me and speak my truth, I can be certain that I am playing my part in God’s world. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between others.

I will trust God.  Whatever, wherever I am,
        I can never be thrown away.
God is with me. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him: in confusion, my confusion may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, confusion, or sorrow may be stopping points on the path toward an end I can not imagine, but is part of God’s plan. God may prolong my life or shorten my life. He may take away my friends, throw me into unfamiliar circumstances, or leave my future clouded and uncertain. I may feel abandoned, desolate and alone.  Yet, despite these heart-wrenching trials, I hold fast to my faith in God’s presence in my life.

No matter my purpose or my work, I will trust in God, who affords all goodness, love, life and light. 

~John Henry Cardinal Newman as paraphrased by Dawn Elise Evans