the alchemy of the angry

I now realize I couldn’t have prayed enough, given enough, and I certainly could not have understood the true meaning of their pain until now. I never realized the true feeling of the splitting, gut-wrenching pain that has taken a home within my chest. The sun seems dim, the stars seem to fade, the wind seems to cut through to the bone.

– Rick Hendrix in It’s Cancer: God, Why Didn’t You heal Them?

God is felt in places too deep for words, in depths beyond ideas and concepts. God is felt in pain and sorrow and contradiction.

Alan W. Jones

The travesty of illness, the fundamental unfairness when one so young, who has lived life so well, so virtuously, so healthfully, so lovingly, is struck down is nearly, nay simply, too much to bear.

We comfort ourselves with the idea that it’s all (whatever we cannot understand) part of some greater scheme that we are too small, too meek, too human to fathom, but does it not then stand to reason that the schemer is unthinkably cruel?

How – how do we rationalize the existence of a merciful God who shows no mercy? Who plucks human beings at the primes of their lives and, for no discernible reason, slowly and tortuously breaks their bodies until they are no longer habitable. How do we explain the suffering?

Yes, I know, the sufficiency of God’s grace. I’m sorry, but I’m calling challenge. Look into the eyes of those you love, hear them as they wail, hold them as they tremble and wretch, then tell me in that moment that in the absence of God’s help, his grace is sufficient.

Perhaps the answer is that it is by our own hand that we have created these diseases and in so doing have brought upon ourselves our own slow and painful demise. We’ve polluted our water, our air, our food. We clean our houses with carcinogens, dump chemical waste into our oceans and rivers, allow the detritus of our obsession with ease to leech through our soil and into our reservoirs. Fine. We did it. All of it. And yet still I ask, where is God?

Where is he when the good ones are struck down? Does a father not do everything in his power to protect his children, to save them, even from themselves? And when his power has no bounds, does he not simply stop the senseless suffering?

Where is God when we pray for a reprieve? Giving us strength to face the horror, we’re told. Comforting us in the cloak of our faith, they say. Waiting to walk us into Eternity. Too small to fathom his plans indeed.

I asked Noelle about God. Not asked, perhaps, but opened a door to the conversation we’d never had before. She told me that she believes that God is a vast collection of spirits. It was – is – an overwhelmingly beautiful thought.

As I chewed on the idea over the following days, I thought of Christmas. Of the crossroads that we reach when our children ask if Santa Claus is real and we tell them, yes, my loves, he is, but he is made real by all of us. And now that you know the secret, you get to be part of making the magic for those who have not yet crossed over the same threshold. You receive the magic until it’s time to BE the magic.

What if God’s magic, his omnipresence and his power, are made real by US? By an ethereal web of souls who have passed over to the other side of God – who have learned the secret. What if each of us, once departed, finds one another and, in so doing, becomes part of God?

My dear friend and sage, Barb Rentenbach says, “People are flecks of God. Each God fragment dispersed through space-time has a slightly different shape. One shape is not superior to another. All are necessary to complete the perfect, infinite, God puzzle. To be proud that one “tolerates”diversity is ludicrous. The whole system is the sum of its parts. Be your part. Connect with other parts and the God puzzle is revealed.”

Is that not the God that Noelle described?

I pull at the threads and cling to the contradictions, bigger and smaller than anything of which I can make sense. I trust that God’s chest is broad enough to absorb the blows of my fists, his arms strong enough to fold me into his embrace no matter how far I go in screaming my angst to the heavens, to him.

I dug up my tattered copy of Mister God, This is Anna. I went searching for the part that I’ve always loved – the part about the colored bits of glass. I couldn’t find it. Instead, I found this. And it felt right.


Her inner fires had refined her ideas, and like some alchemist she had turned lead into gold. Gone were all the human definitions of God, like Goodness, Mercy, Love, and Justice, for these were merely props to describe the indescribable.

“You see, Fynn, Mister God is different because he can finish things and we can’t. I can’t finish loving you because I shall be dead millions of years before I can finish, but Mister God can finish loving you, and so it’s not the same kind of love, is it?”



10 thoughts on “the alchemy of the angry

  1. This post seems very fitting today. Saturday we laid to rest my 12 yr old niece after her 4 year battle of cancer. She was diagnosed at 8, 3 relapses, and 1 stem cell transplant from her 7 yr old sister. She fought up until her last breath, her mother and father told her to go…and she did. She took 2 breaths and then closed her eyes.

    It’s so hard to believe that anything good exists when something like this happens. This is not supposed to happen. I never thought we would be here 4 years ago. She fought and won everytime there happened to be a roadblock. It was so hard to see her mother, father and sister walk away from this a threesome. But then something happened. You see for 4 years we have been praying for a miracle to cure Emily. And through this, the city of Chicago rallied together. Everyone wore green and purple. Green is the color of Lymphoma and Purple is Em’s favorite color. Every porch light was lit up green or purple. She became an honorary Chicago Police Officer, she has a street named after her, Taylor Swift called her and dedicated her opening tour in Tokyo to her by wearing a lime green dress with back up wearing purple. Every one in the crowd had green and purple light up bracelets. It was incredible. They say it takes a village/community to raise a child…in this case it took a child to bring a community together. She was on the news, front page of the Sun-Times and Tribune, talking about staying positive, NO MATTER WHAT! She was a force. And that force is missed.

    As we sat in church on Saturday, the priest said something very interesting. He said, “People all over the world were praying for a miracle for Emily. And little did we know, she WAS the miracle. She did in her short life what a true miracle does. She brought people together, she taught us to love fiercely, she taught us to be selfless. But most of all she taught us to smile and be happy no matter what.

    This is a poem that was read at her eulogy. This is Emily.

    Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. She especially enjoyed the love she saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however the little soul was sad, for on this day she saw suffering in the world. She approached God and sadly asked, “Why do bad things happen; why is there suffering in the world?” God paused for a moment and replied, “Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people’s hearts.” The little soul was confused. “What do you mean,” she asked.” God replied, “Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone.” The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, “The suffering soul unlocks the love in people’s hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this – it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer – to unlock this love – to create this miracle – for the good of all humanity.”

    Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain herself. With her wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied, “I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people’s hearts! I want to create that miracle!” God smiled and said, “You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you. God and the brave little soul shared a smile, and then embraced.

    In parting, God said, “Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.” Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through her suffering and God’s strength, she unlocked the goodness and love in people’s hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys – some regained lost faith – many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened. God was pleased.

    • I am so sorry for you & your family’s loss. It definitely is unfair when kids get sick & have to deal with so much in their short lives. I’m sure your neice was a beautiful little girl. The words that you wrote were beautiful. The poem touched my heart.

    • Oh, Jami, I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. The magnitude of that pain is unimaginable. Thank you for sharing the story. It’s beautiful.

  2. Your overwhelming pain and angst is so visible in your own words, I’m glad you can find some comfort and a bit of understanding in the words of others. I keep your family in my prayers.

  3. I am so deeply sorry Noelle is suffering as I deeply sorry that you all are suffering with her and for her. She has been and obviously continues to be brave.

    I do love the passage that you found and Im glad you found it to be right.

    Love you,

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