Some people think Christians are in love with suffering. Not true: it’s just that we don’t see it as something to be categorically avoided.

My heart hurts right now. It just does, and none of your business why, dear readers, although you’d understand it well enough. I know myself well enough to know that it’ll pass, and probably soon. There’s a kind of hurt that says You’re doing this wrong, and there’s another kind that says This has got to stop, but there’s a third that just is, the way a fact just is.

It’s the third kind that you can’t avoid, and shouldn’t. Léon Bloy says: “Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence.” Pain enters like a knife to cut away the dead parts.

Reality is the knife. You could almost define reality as The thing that we don’t desire, or anyway as The thing which is independent our desires. That’s what makes it worth desiring, because it is Not Us, Not Me. It’s the Other.

Do you remember that dreadfully sentimental movie from the ’90s, What Dreams May Come? Its vision of heaven is a place where we get what we want: the externalization of all our desires. My mother said that sounded a lot more like Hell: nothing but you and what you want, forever. No alarms, and no surprises. C. S. Lewis says something similar:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”

I don’t mean to be melodramatic, Jesus — you’ve put up with a lot of that in our time together — but fiat voluntas tua, and I’m going to bed.

7 thoughts on “The Knife

  1. Chris

    Until a few years ago, I was constantly requesting things, but never asking what His will is. That changed when I heard a talk by one of the lecture people (Fr Larry Richard … Dr. Scott Hahn … maybe it was someone else).

    Anyway, now almost anytime time that I pray and ask for anything (and yes, I mean anything), I ask for His will to be done … even if it is counter to mine.

    Reply
  2. Heide

    I’m always encouraged when I read your posts, especially today. The Other is why I’m here and who redeems my (recent) own suffering… The Other is Christ on the Cross, present in “the least of these.” Life can hurt, yet the pain is one of the reasons life is worth rejoicing in… It gives us a chance to love outside of ourselves. … thanks for letting me add my reflections to yours. Pax Christi.

    Reply
  3. Analisa Roche

    The 11th step in the 12 steps is to pray “only for the knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry it out.” It’s a tough one, but it’s also really the only thing worth praying for. Thanks for this entry – someone’s Facebook share of it introduced me to your beautiful blog.

    Reply

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