Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Whole-hearted Acceptance of Everything

"The Treasure is everywhere. It is offered to us at every moment and wherever we find ourselves. All creatures, friends or enemies, pour it out abundantly, and it courses through every fiber of our body and soul until it reaches the very core of our being. If we open our mouths they will be filled. God's activity runs through the entire universe. . . . We could not choose to become good in a better, more miraculous, and yet easier way than by the simple use of the means offered us by God; the whole-hearted acceptance of everything that comes to us at every moment of our lives."

~ Jean Pierre de Caussade (quoted in The Teachings of the Christian Mystics, edited by Andrew Harvey)

The above quote continues the theme of suffering begun in my previous post. For though it does not deal with the subject explicitly, it seems to me that Caussade's "whole-hearted acceptance of everything that comes to us at every moment of our lives," necessarily includes the experience of suffering.

In the first place, if I think of accepting those things that I know or want or like, it hardly seems to be an issue, so that the real problem comes when I am confronted with the unknown, the unwanted, the despised. And if I am honest, the unknown, unwanted and despised thing is as likely to be love or happiness as it is conflict or illness. And if love or happiness, then it is a question of growing beyond myself, of letting go a tiny piece of my narcissism and allowing myself to be affected and changed by the world. The ego suffering itself to be changed.

In the second place, "everything that comes to us" includes such things as illness and death. Two people that I love more than I can measure are currently suffering through their own individual ordeals. My wife is battling breast cancer and enduring the punishing effects of chemotherapy, which are assaulting her body and mind. My sister has ALS and is witnessing the too-rapid deterioration of her body (though not her spirit, which is as bright as it ever was). My mother and father, my in-laws, my nephew, family and friends, and myself -- we are all suffering for them and from our collective inability to prevent any of this from happening.

It is hard in the face of this to experience this as "The Treasure" that Caussade describes.

The Treasure is "offered to us at every moment" by God and our task is to accept whatever happens to us in those moments "whole-heartedly," states Caussade. I don't know what the Treasure is. I am nowhere near being able to achieve whole-hearted acceptance of everything. I am sure of this much: The Treasure is not that which is happening in each moment. It has something to do with understanding that it is God who is offering us each and every experience. In other words, that whatever happens to us is not just random and purposeless, but filled with meaning through and through. Perhaps it is only through a courageous kind of acceptance that we can begin to recognize and experience that meaning.

I'm not sure. Like I said, I don't know what the Treasure is. I hope I can learn to gracefully accept the gifts God offers.

However, this quote from my sister's blog, in which she writes about her experience of living with ALS, I believe, gives some hint of what might be experienced when the Treasure is encountered:

I am blessed at every turn. Do I sound full of shit when I say that? I hope not because it’s really true. ALS has torn my heart wide open and there are unimaginable gifts in this disease.

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