As I looked at the photos and videos of the devastation caused by Hurricane/Storm Sandy, I was appalled at the destruction. Especially in Queens, where people thought they were preparing for a wet storm and found close to 100 homes in a firestorm that leveled blocks. It looked like something from a war zone, where a bomb had dropped and just wiped out everything.
As I contemplated the destruction, I could not help but recall the Rumi poem, The Guest House...
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I don't know if any of these families can look at their lost homes, lost possessions, and find a gift in the "crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture." Every moment of every day, we are asked to say "yes" to what shows up, even when we don't remember EVER inviting such a thing into our lives.
Years ago, Rev. Dr. Kennedy Shultz was doing a Master Series at the Annual Conference on the Asilomar Conference Grounds. Someone asked about becoming sufficiently "enlightened" or good enough at prayer so that bad things quit happening to them. He smiled and offered "Being a Religious Scientist does not mean that bad things stop happening. It simply means that when they do, you have developed the tools to cope with them."
I have carried that idea ever since. Studying this teaching just means I have developed the tools to cope. In fact, I actually do find a lot fewer "crises" as well, and when nature says it is moving, as it did this week, we move with it.
Would I have the courage to simply be with what happened? To be with the loss? To be with the pain? Would I have the courage to step away from "Why? Why this? Why me?" Could I stand in the pain and open my arms to welcome it in?
I don't know. None of us do until the moment comes. I would like to think that, having studied this teaching for as many years as I have... Having taught it for as many years - that I would move with some form of grace through the shock. I would like to think that I could find solace in my faith.
Until then, we throw open the doors and welcome life, in all its shapes and guises. And we hold one another up. And we love one another. It's what we do.