Friday, March 26, 2010



How did it get to be called “Spring”?  Is it because it happens so quickly, this annual resurrection from cold and dark?  One day there are the same old bare branches standing in the bleak landscape, and the next day blossoms are everywhere you look. 

When Tara was little, we used to play a game every Spring called “Whee!  Blossoms!”  This was played driving in the car, and the first one to spot another flowering tree, bush, or clump of tulips had to call out “Whee!  Blossoms!” before the other person did.  After awhile, the game degenerated into continuous “Whee-ing,” shouts of “No fair!” and loud laughter.  If we were in the car together right now, at 66 and 36, I guarantee you the game would be played again, by unspoken agreement.  Who can ever grow too old for Spring?

The Lenten class I’ve been taking at church, called “Broken & Blessed,” has ended.  I am always surprised when I come face to face with cosmologies that are unlike mine.  In answer to the question, “Why is there suffering?” people said things like “Because God wants us to appreciate the good things we have.”  “Because God wants us to learn something.”  “Because we made the wrong choices.”  I’m all for appreciating and learning and trying to make the “right” choices,  but I am startled for the zillionth time hear that there are people who really think God designs not only general suffering, but specific suffering, and that He even selects certain people to suffer because of some plan He has that we want Him to explain when it happens to us.  “Why me?” 

I don’t know for sure why we suffer.  I don’t even think to ask the question.  We do suffer.  Move on.  There are lots of things we don’t know.  The God I believe in doesn’t make us suffer, but She or He is with us when we do, whether we are aware of it or not.

We don’t really have to know the why of everything, do we?  We just need to know that Spring has come again this year, and that the blossoms will be back again next year.  That’s an amazing promise.   One of the women in the class read a prayer by Dag Hammarskjold at the end of the last session:  “For all that is past, thanks; and for all that is to come, Yes.” 


  1. I did not think about the timing until I was trying to decide what cultural activity to try in my brief foray into our nation's capital, but tomorrow is the cherry blossom parade. I won't be there, but the point is: as I drove my rental car through the city today, not having seen this posting, I saw that first big pink puffy tree, and I shouted, alone in the car, "WHEE! BLOSSOMS!" and I smiled really big and thought of you, Mom. And I smiled and thought of you each time I saw the pink and white trees. I scooted around the tidal basin, and there you were with me.

    Though some wouldn't understand the comparison, I think looking at opposites helped: like God and suffering, you did not guide me to the cherry blossoms today, but by gawd, you prepared me to be there, and you prepared me to get through them with joy, and you prepared me to think of you when I got there, and you were SO there with me.

    We never know when we will suffer or experience joy, but we sure as heck better know our God (and our moms!) well enough to share those times.

    In the boat!

  2. I meant "helps." I think looking at opposites helps to see metaphors and comparisons.

  3. Beca says,

    Perfect. This is a perfect description of the relationship with the Divine (capital D) and suffering.

    I've never been able to reconcile a complete and exclusive cause and effect relationship between suffering and sin. Certainly sin can cause suffering, but not all suffering is the consequence of sin. I truly believe that innocents suffer without sin.

    Anyone who has spent time in health care understands that suffering sometimes just "is." No rhyme or reason that we mere mortals can see, it simply is. It sucks big time and it is not always a consequence of guilt of any sort.

    I prefer to think of sin as the condition of being estranged from God (define God any way you wish, call God by any name you desire.) In this case sin is certainly suffering.

    Sin and suffering can be related but they are not one and the same.

    I always wonder about the inner workings of those who think that suffering is the consequence of sin. Do they believe, or hope, that a righteous life will protect them? Do they believe that adherance to a dogma will spare them pain? Are they arrogant and self-righteous or superstitious and terrified? Would a horrendous event in their lives come as a complete surprise to them, a shock to their faith, or as a self-fulfilling prophecy, the very thing they feared and desperately tried to avoid?

    What about the passion of the Christ? Literally? What exactly was Jesus trying to teach us in the Crucifixtion? That suffering is transcendant?

    I don't think that there is any way that I can avoid suffering. There's no way I can be "good" enough to avoid all painful outcomes. I'm not that perfect, and even if I was, well, poop happens.

    There is pain in my past, there is pain in my present, there will certainly be pain in my future.

    Today is a pretty darned good day, though.

    Not sure where I am going with this- except to say that like you, I find others' views on suffering and sin to be an interesting social study.

  4. My take on suffering has been greatly informed by Mark Oliver Everett of the Eels. "Hey, Man, Now You're Really Living" gets it just right, I think. And "Things the Grandchildren Should Know" has become my theme song. The last lines are particularly potent: "It's not all good and it's not all bad... But if I had to do it all again, well, it's something I'd like to do." Check them out!

    "Hey Man" --

    "Things the Grandchildren Should Know" --

  5. I LOVE, LOVE LOVE that statue in your photo and the quote at the end of your blogpost...
    now, what has you in such an introspective mood today?

  6. What a beautiful post, Sharon. And the prayer quote at the end is lovely (as are the forsythia blossoms and that gorgeous inlaid table). We are having dismal weather here---gray and cold and rainy, but I wanted to tell you that as I read your post, the sun suddenly broke through all those thick clouds and flooded the room with light. It was unexpected because it really was so gloomy outside, so I smiled and said, "Whee!" So thank you to you and Tara. :-)

  7. I used to be a real pagan when it came to Nature. Now I think, coming up to 50, I'm warming to it. I think maybe that's because moving to a more rural area makes me appreciate it more. I'm even listening to birds these days and trying to work out which ones they are. This is revolutionary for me!

  8. "Whee, Blossoms"! sounds a fantastic game.

  9. Got the punctuation wrong there. Sorry. I meant “Whee! Blossoms!”.

    And I liked the rest of your post too.