Why do things happen the way they do, and how do we reconcile with the reality of this terrible world, those of us who want to believe in a loving divine reality?
Recently, someone speaking of a terrible loss to our community said “God knows best.” We say things like that to each other in this Judeo-Christian culture when the unacceptable must be accepted, the irreconcilable must be reconciled and those who are left must somehow go on. Yet if we’ve experienced even a taste of God’s love, the degree to which God is in love with God’s creatures, how could we even think such things? Surely in the face of such terrible events, God’s heart is the most broken and bleeding of all. Surely such a small event as the one referred to—and after all it is a small event in the history of this dreadful world—could not possibly be intended by the God of our understanding!
“We don’t know who anyone is” –Pir Inam, Ajmer, India
Perhaps even less do we know who God is, even as we are God’s expression, the thoughts in God’s mind, the source of God’s being in the form of divine limitation. And in that we are God’s limitation, the conundrum is that we are also God’s perfection, the vehicle for God’s growth. I remember my beloved teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan once saying—I don’t know if he was quoting or not, it sounded like him—that if we knew what love truly was, we would be shattered in our understanding. Do events such as those that bring us lowest serve to teach us the highest truths?
Perhaps, in these moments, we have the opportunity to come closer to God’s understanding. On the one hand, there’s no point in trying to pretty it up with little phrases that are designed to make us feel better, yet the enormity of the Divine reality—perhaps—contains even concepts such as these.
What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your pitcher (when I shatter?)
I am your drink (when I go bitter?)
I, your garment; I, your craft.
Without me what reason have you?
Without me what house where intimate words await you?
I, velvet sandal that falls from your foot.
I, cloak dropping from your shoulder.
Your gaze, which I welcome now as it warms my cheek,
will search for me hour after hour
and lie at sunset, spent, on an empty beach among unfamiliar stones.
What will you do, God? It troubles me. —Rilke, Book of Hours
God bless us one and all. And bless you too, God. Whatever is happening in all this, I’m glad to be the expression of it, because how else would I get to know you—and you me?