We all, I believe, will admit that at one time or other have felt that we were alone. Not by our own choosing, but rather put upon us by circumstances from without or within.
Many years ago while lying in bed before what I hoped would be a good night’s sleep, I experienced a muscle tightening in my lower back. It stemmed from a chronic condition as a result of a spinal fusion to correct a curvature of the spine. The tightening quickly progressed to a full-blown spasm. So great was the pain that it felt as though an iron fist had me in its grip. I thought my lower ribs were about to fracture. There was nothing I myself could do to relieve it. I called to my mother, who immediately began to message the area. I had placed myself in a fetal position in an attempt to reduce the discomfort. I wished I could have left my body which had me in such agony. The very fact that I could conjure up the idea of leaving this painful body behind, to me, meant that one day I would when God so chose. Only to again, one day, be reunited with it in a most perfect state by His good grace. As I lay there resigned to let come what may, suddenly, the spasm lessened and I was released from the most painful grasp that I would have thought that only death would have relieved. What I could not do for myself was accomplished with the help of another; that of my mother.
I once received a thank you card from a loved one who had been struggling through a challenging trial that I, also, had in a similar way experienced. He occasionally came to me – as one who had walked a near identical path – for advice, direction, support or simply an understanding ear. Contained in his message was the following: “I was hanging from the edge of a precipice, which extended over the bowels of hell. And you reached in and pulled me out.” He, too, could not free himself. He needed help from without.
There will come a moment when the struggles and sufferings of life’s most difficult circumstances will bring us to the apex of our stamina. Whether it is our own pain and suffering that presses in on us or that of a loved one. We will find ourselves like the man who paints himself into a corner with no way out. We look to our left and right and find a wall blocking our way. It is folly to look forward into a future. For at that extreme trying instant none exists. We can only give attention to surviving the moment. We look down for some solace, only to find our feet firmly planted in a mortal world whose meager offer of support is that it sadly cannot yield to our pleas. We now know there is but one option left. So we look up for our last means of escape. When all hope seems gone, we find faith at the end of our rope. It is then that we are comfortably enfolded in a powerful yet gentle breeze. Not as one that cools the perspiring brow of a farmer who labors in the field under a blazing sun, but rather that which quenches the soul of one who has been thirsting for the assurance of absolute truth, perfect love and everlasting life.
All that is in this world is restricted to a certain hierarchy of life. Although each has the innate potential to advance in some way to the next level, it cannot do so in and of itself. Each needs a higher level of life above it to reach down and lift it up. Nutrients in soil have a purpose. That is to provide sustenance for plant life. Yet it is fixed at its level of existence. But if a seed is planted in soil it draws the nutrients up from its world into itself and becomes a flower. And in so doing has made the nutrients a part of itself. By lifting the nutrients to this greater good and allowing them to fulfill their purpose, they now have a share in a new and higher life.
We humans, too, have within us the ability and urge to move to a higher level. The proof is in our unquenchable thirst for that which the things of this world seemingly cannot satisfy. When trapped in that inescapable corner, as discussed above, we have but one alternative; to look up. Up to that higher level. That upper level of life that, like the nutrients, we cannot ascend to on our own. A child will find that adult conversation goes right over his head, until an adult descends to the child’s language level to bring understanding. We, also, need One from above who will come down to us to show us the way. And in His willingness to be lifted up on a cross, Christ has revealed the way by which we, too, are lifted to the ultimate hierarchy of life.
“He bowed the heavens, and came down.” – Psalm 27:9
We rise to a higher life when we are born into this world. The human fetus matures into a human baby. Through that maturation we achieve the potential that we possessed at inception. But it is necessary that we be called forth from the womb to reach fulfillment in a new life. The new-born cries because he regrets leaving behind what we knew so well. But, the fear of an uncertain new environment soon leaves him as he gazes into the loving eyes of his mother. So it is as we enter the tomb, that rightly rhymes with womb. For the tomb, like the womb, is but a stopover in life’s journey. Likewise the tomb is meant to be left behind as is the womb. And the fear of losing a world that we once knew so well will, too, quickly fade as we gaze upon the beautiful loving face of our savior and creator.
“I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will not leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton