Mortify Our Wolves: The Struggle Back to Life and Faith in the Face of Pain and the Certainty of Death
There comes a moan to the cancer clinic. There comes a sound so low and unvarying it seems hardly human, more a note the wind might strike off jags of rock and ice in some wasted place too remote for anyone to hear.
We hear, and look up as one at the two attendants hurriedly wheeling something so shrunken it seems merely another rumple in the blanket, tubes traveling in and out of its impalpability, its only life this lifeless cry.
The doors open soundlessly, and the pall of sorrow goes flowing off into the annihilating brightness beyond. Then the doors close, and we as one look down, not meeting each other’s eyes, and wait.
The terrible thing—it could perhaps be a glorious thing; always the ill are meant to see it as such, are reproached if they don’t (carpe fucking diem)—the terrible thing about feeling the inevitability of your own early death is the way it colors every single scene: at some friends’ house I am moved by the beauty and antics of their two-year-old daughter—moved, and then saddened to think of the daughter D. and I might have, for whom my death will be some deep, lightless hole, which for the rest of her life she will walk around, grief the very ground of her being. What is this world that we are so at odds with, this beauty by which we are so wounded, and into which God has so utterly gone?
Into which, rather than from which: in a grain of grammar, a world of hope.
That conversions often happen after or during intense life experiences, especially traumatic experiences, is sometimes used as evidence against them. The sufferer isn’t in his right mind. The mind, tottering at the abyss of despair or death, shudders back toward any simplicity, any coherency it can grasp, and the man calls out to God. Never mind that the God who comes at such moments may not be simple at all, but arises out of and includes the very abyss the man would flee. Never mind that in traumatic experience many people lose their faith—or what looked like faith?—rather than find it. It is the flinch from life—which, the healthy are always quick to remind us, includes death—and the flight to God that cannot be trusted.