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In Between Suffering and Faith

The answer to the question, “Why am I even here, what is my purpose in life?”
“You’re already doing it.”

The Buddha and the early Christian elders have something in common: they believed that clinging to a present state of the world and not letting it go caused suffering. They all had an innate sense that the more we could detach from fixating on things as they are happening, the more we would be in touch with the world as it is and our part in it. The more we tighten our grip onto an experience, a belief, a material object, or even a relationship with someone as it is, the more we set ourselves up for suffering later on.

Those who travel by sea, when overtaken by a storm, do not worry about their merchandise but throw it into the waters with their own hands, considering their property less important than their life. Why, then, do we not follow their example, and for the sake of the higher life despise whatever drags our soul down to the depths? Why is fear of God less powerful than fear of the sea? In their desire not to be deprived of this transitory life, they judge the loss of their goods no great disaster; but we, who claim to be seeking eternal life, do not look with detachment on even the most insignificant object, but prefer to perish with the cargo rather than be saved without it (St. Neilos the Ascetic. Philokalia (Vol. 1), pp. 242-243).

I love my kids more than I think I can love myself. I would do anything for them, fight for them, suffer for them. They tether me to this world and answer the question of why I am on the earth today. However, if I cling to my relationship with them as it is, I will miss their own state of change and fail to respect their growth enough so that they can become new people every day. Kids are in a constant state of change as they absorb experience with a speed they will never again have. If they are my sole reason for living I not only hurt my own growth but I hurt their growth as well. Love becomes selfish and my own greed will overtake the gifts that they will continually bring me as they get older.

There are many overlapping “in-betweens” that have to do with the very core of who I think I am. These are the spaces where we sense change without resolution. Some of them have resolved and breaking through the TV static of ambiguity is a new image of clarity. Some of them are heightened and aspects of life that were once clear are now more complex and blurry. No matter where I sit when I examine myself it’s more and more clear to me that this place between not-anymore and not-yet is all there really is. God is nowhere else but right here. Love is nowhere else but right here. I am nowhere else but right here.

Working through the change with these liminal spaces is not easy. The very structures of our minds work in categories and definitions and when there is something we cannot define it drives us nuts if we can’t control it. As I wrote before:

Undergoing personal change is a difficult experience. When we change we have to accept that others won’t accept us after we hit that tipping point where we have converted. We also have to accept that we will lose friends, how we see the world will be different, we will have to unlearn some things, and we will move on from our pasts. Sometimes we might suffer from Stockholm Syndrome and our present is tied to our past in an abusive symbiosis.

I can blame no one when I suffer this way. I cause it by longing for something else than what is in front of me. My fear of change, of letting go, of enacting faith, and of trusting God or anyone else is why I will suffer. This is my own desire to cling to what I know so that I don’t have to face what I don’t know. Faith should step in here to help me in the struggle to define what isn’t clear. But faith is hard work. If faith alone is hard work, how much harder is it to love?

About Andrew Tatusko

Secularization, critical pedagogy, sometimes agnostic, politics, and a ton of running. Penn State is definitely not responsible for what I say.


2 thoughts on “In Between Suffering and Faith

  1. Thanks for writing about this. I really love your initial quote, about how we’re already “doing life”. I sometimes get really afraid that I’m somehow not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, but then there’s that small reminder inside my soul that tells me that this gritty day-in and day-out stuff IS life. And yet, at the same time, as you said, we can’t get too attached to it. Pay attention, be present, but don’t keep a death grip on everything.

    Posted by Deanna Ogle (@deannaogle) | July 4, 2012, 1:52 AM
  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts around this, and extending the ones I’ve been working through. This is a great illustration of the problem we face when we’re not willing to just *be* in the in-between: “However, if I cling to my relationship with them as it is, I will miss their own state of change and fail to respect their growth enough so that they can become new people every day.”

    Posted by Kristin T. (@kt_writes) | July 2, 2012, 3:33 PM

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