In the late 1980s, shortly after my sister had died and after I'd helped my sister-in-law place my 33 year-old brother, who suffered from a virulent form of MS, in a nursing home, I embarked on a binge of self-destructive behavior that quickly led me to seek the services of a professional therapist. At the end of the second session, she informed me that while she could continue to take my money, she believed that I might be the one patient in her professional practice who least needed her help.Essentially, she kicked me out of class.
After ticking off the laundry list of adverse events in my life, she asserted that I understood exactly what my "problems" were, that I had a firm grasp on reality, that I seemed rooted and blessed with a profound sense of right and wrong, and that I could benefit from no insights she could offer, other than this: "You need to cut yourself some slack."
I stood up from my chair, walked to hers, bent over to face her levelly as she sat in her chair, and reposted, "No, I don't need to cut myself some slack. God needs to cut me some slack." I didn't say it nicely, and I'm not proud of that fact, since she was a good therapist and I think she was doing her best.
I've since learned that God doesn't need to cut me anything, much less "slack." Life is much too short not to savor whatever moments of joy one can wring from it and to, instead, bemoan the fact that the void inevitably beckons us all into its warm, eternal embrace.
Still, survivor's guilt lingers, and its scent is not rosy. If, in fact, I actually possess a "firm grip on reality," I still marvel at how serendipitous life seems; how the deserving fall and the worthless thrive; how the clueless shine and the wise fade; how a clown posse can, like scum, rise to the top, while a band of saints is drawn and quartered.
God: as Robert Bolt's characterization of Saint Thomas More puts it, "I find Him rather too subtle. . . . I don’t know where He is nor what He wants."
Yet, if faith is the realization of things hoped for, I plod onward in faith. As Peter said to Christ, "Master, to whom shall we go?" Indeed.