Life is Grace

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver)

Yes, I’m still a redhead. No, I’m not planning to change my haircolor. I did rename this blog, formerly known as “The Redhead Report” however, because I wanted a title that is more congruent with what I’m feeling the urge to write about these days. Like many others I know, I’ve been through what, I guess, is a lot in my forty years (some days it seems like more than others!) but I’ve come to find that there many gifts that come with the healing process.

(Note: The following is taken from my grad school application essay.)

Sometimes, we find the greatest gifts in the rubble and detritus of our broken, shattered dreams. Grace, I have discovered, has a way of catching us unawares. We are all called to sainthood; each of us is designated to do the thing that we alone can do in this world to help bring about the Kingdom of God and spread the Gospel. Yet it may be that it is only through our encounters with the deepest, darkest depths that we can begin to see, clearly, the light, to discover our place in the pattern, and only then that we become filled with gratitude for God’s love and grace.

I was diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder at the age of 19. I was a consummate over-achiever in college–honor society, merit scholarships, a coveted internship with Senator Ted Kennedy–and I guess I assumed the world was mine for the taking: the sky was the limit. Then the flashbacks began, followed by the nightmares, the depression. My grades dropped, many of my friends turned away, my dreams of law school faded, and, it seemed, my world turned to ashes.

Yet as so frequently happens with God, the very weakness I despised led to my greatest discovery. For in my vulnerability, my brokenness, my comprehension of my complete, utter powerlessness, I gradually came to accept my total dependence on God, and God alone. It was only as I clutched desperately, in my despair, to the God who was all I had left, that I came to glimpse God’s boundless, infinite love and compassion.

I was painfully forced to re-imagine the God of my childhood: the benevolent traffic controller who lived up above the clouds, in heaven. One by one, I discarded all of the platitudes I’d always heard during bad times, such as “everything happens for a reason” and “well, it must be God’s will.” Examining these old assumptions, I decided, firmly, that they didn’t meet the test of child rape (which is what happened to me). I could not love or even respect, I knew, a God who could will something so evil, so destructive, to happen–for any reason. Forced to let go of the omnipotent, all-powerful God of my youth, I have slowly come to embrace, with surprising joy, the Christ of the Paschal Mystery. The thoroughly immanent God who chose to become one with us for no other reason than His immense love for us, and desire to call us to Himself.

4 thoughts on “gifts in the rubble

  1. LutherLiz says:

    Thanks for sharing! You are such a great writer – I’m sure your application was well recieved!


  2. Truly beautiful, Barbara. WOW! I know that is a very inadequate expression, but it’s what I’m left with after reading your post. Your new blog title is absolutely perfect for what you have written here. There is a deep source within you — keep this up. Emilie’s spirit is with you strongly right now. Thank you for sharing that with all of us.


  3. I love it. I hope you continue to write on your blog often in this spirit. I agree it fits you much better these days!


  4. liz says:

    What a beautiful essay! Part of it reminds me of Rabbi Harold Kushner’s work – I really love his “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” (trite title, good book). He talks a lot about how you can believe in an omnipotent God or an all-loving God, but not both at the same time. He must have been channeling you. :)Tell us more about this intriguing grad school opportunity!!


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