Reality Check and Grace Adjustment by Sarah Reinhard

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reinhard_newI have always hated the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.”  Not only does it feel like a cop-out to my rational mind, it seems to undermine whatever pain or tragedy it’s trying to address.

In Mass at the beginning of Lent, though, I felt that phrase as a gentle reminder of the fact that life doesn’t just suck.

Three days into the new year, my brother-in-law died.  It was unexpected and it was tragic.

My husband’s sister was the first of her siblings to face this challenge.  All of us reeled, looking at our spouses and wondering.

She isn’t the oldest child.  Her husband wasn’t the oldest of the spouses (or the siblings, for that matter).

So why?  What was the point?

It’s hard for me to look at this event, this pocket of growing pain in our family’s life, and come anywhere close to “Everything happens for a reason.”

But when, sitting beside her at her parish in Louisiana, her priest referred to Lent as a reality check and an attitude adjustment, that I saw beyond the well-meaning emptiness of my current most-hated phrase.

Maybe, what people mean when they offer those five words as comfort is that good can come even from horror.  Maybe what they want to point out to those of us embroiled in grief is that there is great grace in suffering.  Maybe what they intend is not to comfort through cliché, but to point to a greater good.

I often need reality checks.  I just as often need attitude adjustments.  I don’t embrace my vocation as I should and I resist things that are good for me (physically as well as spiritually).

The reality check for me this Lent, though, is the grace adjustment I’ve faced.

My brother-in-law’s death isn’t really mine to claim.  My nieces’ pain and suffering isn’t really mine to comfort.  My sister-in-law’s anger isn’t really mine to explain.

Only One can claim, comfort, and explain.  Only One can hold them and know the pain, the horror, the tragedy.  Only One can carry their burden (and them).

And He’s the One I’m turning to, all Lent long.

Copyright 2010 Sarah Reinhard

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