The Muck of Life

It doesn’t rain but it pours.

After suffering a heart-rending rejection I lost, as an observant friend pointed out, my school, my residence, and my job simultaneously. As timing would have it, I now watch my own father’s health deteriorate, ravaged by an autoimmune disease. In addition, the one friend I have who I could say has always been there for me, has always known what to say in a hard time, and has counselled me through seemingly endless personal crises suffers greatly after two serious hospital visits.

Rarely have I had to face the death of a loved one, and now at the time of my hardest personal trial, it seems like death itself is draining life away, slowly, from two of those whom I love most. It appears at times that I am walking in the valley of death.

No stranger to physical suffering and the resulting battles with despair, I’ve decided at this point in my life to forgo the usual existential cry aimed at God’s seeming indifference. God is no stranger to suffering. God is no stranger to loss. God doesn’t do anything to us, He invites us to have a share in His kingdom.

God looks at us with those tender, compassionate eyes of His and says, “See here at my fingertips the gifts of a love borne well: the poor, the lame, the prostitutes, and the lepers. Oh yeah, and the sinners too, here’s a tax collector.”

But what kind of God is this, one that revels in the muck of life? Should I look up to the cross and, like some Jews, wonder at this supposed saviour. If this is what salvation looks like, guess we better wait for the divine conqueror afterall. Who among us doesn’t want to trade in the donkey for a stallion anyway?

This side of the pearly gates, I’m not sure I’ll ever get it, and at this point, I don’t really care if I do. I am in the muck of life. That I know. And looky looky, here is God with me. He’s sitting in it and looking right at me. God says with that wry smile of His, “Hey Adam, you’ve got muck all over your face.” I scoop my hands into the filth and hurl some muck towards the Lord and say, “Now look who’s calling the kettle black!” We share a good belly laugh.

It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.

The problem that we think we have is not the problem that we have at all. It’s foolish to want to understand the ‘why’ of anything that happens in this world. If we go after the world trying to chew on ‘why this’ and ‘why that’, we instead find ourselves pulverised beyond recognition by a harsh and unforgiving reality, and that state is not unlike the crucified Christ anyhow. Thus, through all that energy and misguided passion, we find ourselves back at square one.

I am crucified. Love is crucified. I can become love, if I accept my crucifixion. I’m not talking about just any love, but love incarnate, God on earth, that kind of compassion that really blows your socks off. I don’t know if you’ve ever been loved to the point of looking up into the heavens and wondering how such marvelous and beautiful acts could possibly exist. You deserve to be loved just like that, and you are loved just like that. Rejoice, there’s more: that love does not exclude the Cross! That love, mystery of mysteries, not only includes the Cross, but is personified, vivified, and brought into existence by the Most Precious and Life Giving Cross.

Now fathom that. If we but embrace the one thing that we truly fear, ugly and grimy suffering in all its manifestations, then we get the proverbial two birds. Not only has our greatest enemy, discomfort, been vanquished, but we are divinised in the doing of it.

There is but one thing left to do after we have picked up our Cross and that, my dear friend, is to smile. With the roughly hewn wood digging into our shoulders we can look to our side with the greatest possible joy knowing that there is Jesus Christ, with His own roughly hewn cross, all mysterious in His flesh, looking back at us, loving us, knowing us.

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