Were you there when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
– Job 38
I ask you, what are you? You don’t know. There is only “I don’t know.” Only keep this don’t-know mind. When this don’t-know mind becomes clear, then you will understand.
– Zen Master Seung Sahn
When I started reading the Bible a chapter per morning about 18 months ago, I didn’t plan for Easter to be the day I’d transition from Job, the book of suffering, to Psalms, the book of praise. Nor did I imagine how much suffering was ahead. Like Job, I’ve since endured the loss of my entire immediate family – my husband and father, as well as several friends who were like family – and survived a scare from grave illness. At least I didn’t have boils all over my body! Oh wait – shingles, too.
Job’s suffering and my own have taught me a Zen-flavored Jewish and Christian lesson, I think – a lesson about how much we don’t know. What we experience as suffering is part of a web of personal and natural interconnection too vast and complicated for a mere human to understand. Without our experience of suffering, we wouldn’t recognize joy. So our suffering is a gift, hard as that may be to recognize while it’s going on. The best way to deal with suffering, I’m learning, is not to compound it by suffering more about it. To go through it and not around it. Not to make it bigger by trying to figure it out.
The lived parable of Easter tells us redemption is in the not-knowing, in what a Christian might call faith. We encounter suffering and death only in the material world we know through our physical senses. What we can’t grasp with our senses but can touch with our souls is our safety net, our salvation, our eternal life. The only part of us that suffers is the part that sees ourselves as separate from the whole, from the universe, from the absolute, from God. The only part of us that dies is the part that suffers. That’s what Christ died and rose to show us.
Forsythia branches are in bloom (thanks, Sharon!) in the office and meditation-prayer room Hal set up for me. His plants are thriving, if you needed more proof his spirit is still around. May the flattening curve of the world’s virus send us back into the world together soon. Happy Easter.