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Livingston Families

A Source of Comfort

01/08/2013 09:35 ● By Rick McGarry

Frank Schaeffer was nice enough to give permission to share this excerpt from his book Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion {Or Atheism}.

What is the source of comfort [when we suffer], if any? It’s not found by making excuses for God or for Nature. It’s found in the reality of living by the light of the gift of love.

For today, it’s enough to hold my granddaughter close and to help my daughter-in-law so she can take a shower and run errands while John works. When my wife is home we take turns pitching in to give this grandchild the most affection we can provide. That joy balances the horror of life’s woes. It also opens the door to suffering, because love invites loss. There would be no horror at death without the loss that comes from loved ones being wrenched away from us. Without love, death loses its sting. What a terrible price to pay for the sweetest gift…

I pass the wood-burning stove, and the glow it casts though its Pyrex glass door illuminates the darkened kitchen on this winter day. I’m holding Lucy. Her bare feet are cupped in my hand; my head is bent at an awkward angle that, if witnessed by a Red Cross worker visiting a prison camp, would rate as a “stress position” and torture! But if I move she’ll wake up.

For weeks now I’ve spent most days with a stiff neck and cramped shoulders. I’ve learned to enjoy this “torture” because it’s the result of holding Lucy as I walk around that kitchen table(again!) with her feet in my hand, her bottom perched on my forearm and the back of her head cupped on the other hand. I hum along with Beethoven’s Sixth.  As long as my humming continues, and I don’t shift the position of my arms, she stays asleep.

My communion with my granddaughter is complete. And through her, my communion with my son away at work is complete as well. He would so much rather be where I am.

Does love predate brain chemistry? Does love predate the planet I am standing on? Does love predate the universe? I think it does. I’ll take the tears in exchange for a chance to hold Lucy.

Love hurts…

I hold Lucy tighter when I remember her father going off to war and all the nights I prayed for John. Love radiates out and infects our beginning, present, and future. It is Russell’s “ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy.” Love is not the product of human emotion, but I believe that human emotion is the product of love and that love predates our existence. The parent becomes the child. The child becomes the parent. John went to war while his father—I the protector—stayed home safe and in agony. I will die. But Lucy will hold her child against the cheek that was pressed against mine.

Love abides.

Excerpted from Patience with God:Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion {or Atheism} by Frank Schaeffer, 2009, De Capo Press.

Now available in paperback.

Watch Frank's interview on GRITtv about how people, religious or irreligious, are all looking for answers to the same questions.

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