By Peggy Guiler ~
As I write this afternoon, my mind drifts to prayer. A family I know lost their son to a tragic death this week and my friend, a minister, has been charged with taking the service. I have been praying for them and for her all week but today, as they bury this young man, the burden is heavy.
When my son died, my faith was my sustenance and so today I wonder how I can share that faith with people who do not believe. My friend who is taking the service has the same quandary. She is known as a woman of great faith in the community and also a woman of great compassion. Today that faith and compassion are challenged as she ventures into a service of burial for a family who doesn’t want anything to do with her faith.
I have no idea how she is going to handle this dilemma though I know she will bring great grace and wisdom to the moment.
As I searched for ways to pray for her and them I was drawn to one of my modern mystic heroes, *Etty Hillesum. A Jew in Poland in the early 1940’s, Etty was not big on God or faith. As the terror for her community began to grow she started writing a journal which is now a record of her journey in faith. The worse the terror, the stronger her faith became.
Etty did not find religion though she held those who practiced it in high regard. What she did find was the essence of God, love and peace. On her journey toward concentration camps she chose to support people by taking an administrative role so she could be with them in their most terrifying moments. She actually chose to go to camps before she was required to because she believed her outlook could comfort those who were in despair. She says, “…life is beautiful. And I believe in God. And I want to be able to be there right in the thick of what people call ‘horror’ and still be able to say: “life is beautiful.” ” She also said, “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others.”
That is the charge for my friend this afternoon as she tries to take God with her to people who want nothing to do with God. That is after all, why they wanted her to do the service. They recognize peace and love but they do not call it God. She does and it is difficult not to name that great peace, but it is that very peace which will give her the strength to hold back from “preaching” and just offer love in the midst of horror.
If we can’t talk about God we simply have to be Godly. Perhaps that is the better way.
*Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork, with forward by Eva Hoffman, Holt Paperbacks, 1996