I wrote this in support of our unit on loss for the Spiritual Mentoring Certificate Course.
The Gift of the Uninvited Guest
We all wish we didn’t have them. Those uninvited guests – times we don’t see coming that turn our world inside out – times of loss and the often deep grief that accompanies them. They can show up abruptly with no explanation. Worse yet, they can make themselves quite at home settling in with fear, suffering and chaos in tow. Our minds race frantically to understand, to restore order, to reclaim our vanishing sense of normalcy. But peace too often remains a memory.
The uninvited guest has many disguises. Sometimes it arrives as a natural disaster we witness in the lives of those around us. It is hard to look, to let in, when there is so much unmasked suffering. Yet, as we do, we may begin to sense the unexpected gift this unwanted guest of ours brings. I notice that as I look squarely into the face of suffering that, somehow, it is that very suffering that stirs a kind of quake within me, opening me to places of feeling often kept hidden deep. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter who they are, what nationality, what they believe. Seeing, feeling their deep suffering stirs in me a compassion I can’t ignore. And, allowing in the chaos, I am surprised at the feeling of unity I suddenly feel with a stranger.
Sometimes our uninvited guest is closer to home. The unexpected change, accident, diagnosis, in our life or in the life of someone we love. I had such a guest last November in the story I shared in The Mother Teresa Rosary: Next Chapter.
Yet, even as we are being broken open, there appears right there, the most unexpected gift brought by this uninvited guest – a gift, in fact, only this guest can bring. It is the gift of remembrance that we are indeed mortal – that all we know and we love is finite – literally here today and gone tomorrow. And, this is the most precious gift of all as it causes us, unhinged, to reach for something beyond our normal grasp, something beyond what we know or understand, something eternal and infinite. It causes us to search for God.
Still, it is inescapable that this most precious gift can only be brought by the uninvited guest. For it is only through darkness that we experience light. Only through suffering that we can know joy. Only through death that we know living. It is why the poet Hahlil Gibran reminds us that should we seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure we will find our self in a …seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all your laughter, and weep, but not all your tears. It’s why Rumi in his famous poem The Guest House tells us to welcome all of our emotional visitors – even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each quest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
So, as we graciously receive each uninvited guest into our being, let’s allow love to have its way with us. To use suffering as an opportunity to feel a little more deeply – compassion for both our self and others. To use tragedy as an opportunity to grow much like the lotus flower using the muck under the water to blossoms because of not in spite of. To use so-called death as an opportunity to surrender all we hold dear only to find ourselves held by the Beloved.
Let’s receive with open arms the uninvited guest, the messenger.
For hidden there is a gift from God.
Rev. Stephanie Rutt