In Times of Everyday Mortal Afflictions

I’ve not written for a time because of a series of events that derailed my summer intentions. In early June my companion Daniel’s father (age 91) could not get back to bed from the bathroom, and since then he’s been back & forth between the hospital and nursing home rehab, unable to care for his wife, who has Alzheimers. So I have spent many days two hours from my home in Springfield, IL, getting simple meals and meds for Daniel’s mother when he’s at work, bringing work with me to do there. But no internet access in the house limited my blog writing abilities.

Very recently too I’ve developed health problems of my own–neuropathic symptoms (tingling, numbness, etc.) that may be related to a gluten sensitivity (we’ll see). I’d not been mindful of the gluten matter; it’s hard not to eat wheat when traveling, as I did just before the symptoms began to earnestly play out all over my body like a symphony that kept me awake at night. They’ve abated but not vanished since being off gluten, but I’ve just begun testing to find out the cause.

All this is the usual stuff of human existence, I know. A few thoughts about how daily lectio have interfaced with this summer’s challenges:

1) When feeling sleep-deprived and anxious about your mortal condition, sometimes prayer may revert solely into the first part of lectio: reading a psalm over and over again, letting ITS words do the praying around you.

2) Human distress is often on God’s mind, esp. when it’s due to impoverishment and a lack of family. Today’s Ps. 82:4: “Rescue the weak and the poor, and save them from the land of violence.” So many human beings have suffered immensely; no one is unique in this regard. And God calls us to remember this truth and to accompany one another–even, I sense, those past and present we will never know, but find ourselves driven by the Spirit to hold up in the space of prayer.

3) Nothing matters more than awareness (praise) of God, even if that awareness takes the form of a numbing of our spirit’s senses themselves (as a friend of mine experiences just now). Our lives become central in the scheme of things only when we recognize the vast center in God shining everywhere. Somehow I have always found this truth comforting. (I think Johann Sebastian Bach knew it very well.)

4 thoughts on “In Times of Everyday Mortal Afflictions

  1. Cynthia Smith

    What good thoughts, Amy, especially letting a psalm pray for you. Lectio has become for me an “intaglio of the soul.” Repetition and meditation engrave the words on my spirit.
    We will keep you in our prayers as you wind your way through health issues and caregiving.


  2. I had to look up intaglio, but just seeing the images of intaglio-made art gave me a sense of what you meant. I also think of the psalmic/poetic words that repeat in us as coming from and creating an open dwelling space. Two different dimensional images–engraving and space-making.


  3. Hi, Amy,
    Sometimes difficulties and challenges seem to come all together. And it looks like you have had your share in recent days. I shall hold you in prayer as you deal with it all. I am glad that the psalms have helped; they are a treasure for such moments. At one of our classes in Rome this summer, Sister Kym Harris, OSB, from Australia, talked about liminality. She described it as the place or space when we find ourselves at one of our lowest ebbs in life. She believes it is the time when God is most present and reveals love to us, but we usually don’t see it until the moment of resurrection begins to occur. I pray this will be your experience, although at or near the bottom does seem so dark. May light shine within and around you.
    Sr. Ruth


  4. Thank you, Sister Ruth. I sensed your presence at about the time you were writing, and said a prayer for you (and other sisters) as well. Didn’t know until now we were thinking of one another at about the same time.

    My symptoms have subsided, though not disappeared (shifted to subtler things). But blood tests suggest there’s at least one other plausible explanation (besides too much gluten) for them right now: a revival of an old mono virus I didn’t know I had (but now think I know just when I did–and believe the dizziness I had for some months was due to that as well). I’ll be having an MRI to rule out organic problems. It’s good to be feeling closer to normal at this time, though, and more able to sleep.

    Two caveats (no surprise to you, I suspect, since I am full of them!). First, the psalms are a complicated sort of comfort. They don’t usually speak to me as aptly or ripely as any number of poems do; there is far too much that troubles me in the theology and history of ancient Israel. It bothers me in fact when those who love the psalms sanitize them by only highlighting the easily embraceable verses. But I value the discipline that comes with the praying of psalms, and the patriarchal, nationalistic elements shine out dimensions of human history (and too much of ongoing existence) that are worthy of praying down and wrestling with before God. And despite that, or across it, there is the use of the psalms as one touchstone for remembering the presence of God, in the company of others around the world praying them as well. So yes, praying the psalms does steady me, but it does irritate me often as well!

    The second caveat: I fear I’ve had many seasons of liminality in my life, though there is always something harsher indeed about those that affect our physical health. Do you think our prior seasons of liminality ease each new one?

    I think there’s a strand of our aware lives in which the answer is yes, and other levels of struggle and consciousness in which the answer is no (we get freaked out in our fragility over and over again!). Good to spot the former level of stability, though–a level centered in silence and awakened a bit more in prayer.


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