We are the Woman of Tyre

Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone (Mark 7:24-30).

When I read this Gospel early yesterday morning (2/9/23), it immediately resonated with me in a deep way, and I smiled to myself, understanding that God was speaking to my heart. 

Here is the Lord, wanting some time away from the crowds during His full days of ministering to them. In His humanity, we can imagine He is tired; He has been talking and healing for hours. But alas, this is not to be. A woman, a Gentile, no less, has found Jesus, followed Him into the house, and then falls “at His feet.” 

At first, He is noticeably a little irritated (although probably just responding in a clarifying manner) and tries to dismiss her. Jesus makes a comment about children and dogs, which scholars have argued has a variety of meanings, but ultimately suggests that He is at least appearing to be reluctant to help her. The woman, however, understanding His meaning, persists. Her love for her daughter is so great, her willingness to confront the Lord is so courageous and faithful, that Jesus cannot deny her. Even in this brief encounter, she and Jesus have formed a relationship—one of trust and love and faith. Jesus bears witness to the woman’s very real vulnerability, understands and hears her, and because of this frees her daughter from sin. 

How many times have we suffered for our children? How many hours have we worried, sought answers, and committed ourselves to doing anything we can to alleviate their suffering, pain, and struggle? How many late nights and early mornings have we sat in prayer, asking the Lord to deliver them? 

This mother in this story represents every one of us who has found the courage to become righteous warriors for our children—every one of us who is willing to go to the Lord, pleading for His merciful goodness and healing. It is not enough, however, just to ask for God’s help. Like this woman, we must remain determined to seek Him, follow Him, and then speak to Him with hearts fully open to His love. We cannot do this haphazardly. We cannot neglect Jesus for long periods of time and then only go to Him when we’re desperate. Of course, God can attend to us at any time. Even when we’ve been away from Him for a while, we can experience the healing of actual grace. But what this mother shows us is that when we are in relationship with Christ, when we are determined to find Him, be near Him, and ask for His understanding and help, He will always answer us. 

Although in this story Jesus was seeking time away from the crowds, He actually wants us to look for and find Him. In fact it is our very suffering that serves to draw us close to Him. He knows this, which is why, when we call for Him in our pain, He is there to comfort and heal us. 

At a time in our culture when women and mothers are often undermined and questioned, and when we sometimes ask ourselves if we have the courage to help our children through their sufferings, let this woman assure us we are in fact capable of doing just that. We cannot do it alone, however. As we cultivate our relationship with God, as we sit at the foot of the cross and integrate our pain with Jesus’s sacrifice, we are then in a position to best serve, care for, and lead our children. 

Mirroring the humility and faith of this woman and of course, Our Lady, may we continue to seek God’s love and goodness. May we pursue Him with courage and fierceness. And may we know when He answers us that it is our faith, born out of the crucible of suffering, that has saved us.

What I Know Right Now

Having lived (and continuing to live) through my fair share of challenges, which is basically the essence of the human condition, this is what I know. Whether we are aware of it or not, we co-create our every experience, and each one is an opportunity to learn more fully how to see and feel, indeed to evolve. Every interaction with life is an invitation to perceive the world and understand ourselves with greater clarity, depth, and breadth.

All suffering comes from a belief system based on lack and fear. Are challenges certain? Yes. Are illness and death possible and true? Yes. This is life. As soon as we are born, death is inevitable. But every moment we are alive, we have a choice. Regardless of the form life takes, we have the freedom to choose our perspectives and our attitudes.

Only when we can see conditions as they are and detach from them will we be able to discover peace. At any given time, we are able to perceive only a portion of the myriad energies, life purposes, and evolutions occurring around us. Our task is not to control or change others or the conditions in order to find satisfaction and joy. Rather, it is to surrender to what is and allow the natural flow of life-force energy and infinite possibilities to move through and elevate us.

Somehow we have come to believe that contrast and pain are bad things that need to be quashed, eradicated. This is understandable. Emotional and physical pain hurt. We don’t like them. We are intelligent creatures, but our desire to evade and eliminate pain is primal. Our entire system is designed to survive, after all, and pain (and the mere threat of pain) is potentially deadly. But we are more than our neural pathways and our brain. We are spiritual beings first. So our instinctive “belief” (which is in truth taught to us) that adversity is “bad” is actually incorrect. It is misguided. It is a misperception. All creation occurs in the contrast. It is the only place creation happens. Nothing expands without breaking open. Nothing. In denying this truth, we reject our own evolution. Our nature is to crave expansion. But we’ve individually and collectively convinced each other that the pain, the very opportunity to create, is inherently random, unfair, and unnecessary and is to be avoided at all cost.

So what do we do? We repress, medicate, blame, victimize, and argue for our crappy, sad, miserable lives. We say we are debilitated by anxiety and fear. No! We are debilitated by our inability to welcome and allow what wants to be born and express. Anxiety, depression, worry, fear–these are signs of life yearning to move through us, and, because we believe them to be signs of our brokenness, we suppress them. Why do these low but powerful vibrations increase? Because we insist on shutting them up, pushing them down, and arguing that they are the problem. Our spirits want to live. They want to be free. And we protest, claiming our fate as prisoners. We demand the chains are real. So we remain in our emotional cages, for which we blame others, but in fact build and reinforce ourselves.

It’s nothing less than tragic that so many of us argue with nihilistic certainty that it is the prison, not the free spirit, that is real and where we deserve to live. The seduction of the darkness is powerful, indeed. As in Plato’s allegory, even if one finally escapes the shadows and lies in the cave and experiences the light of truth in the sun, the collective insistence on perpetuating the lie is usually so strong that it can do nothing other than destroy the truth and anyone who speaks of it. And so we choose to remain in the cold, fear-based cell of the dark.

We need to know the light is there, waiting for us. Will you choose different?

Another Look at Choosing Stillness over Action–and What Happens Next?

I first published this piece in February of 2019, a little over one month before our lives forever changed in the face of Sean’s diagnosis. I wanted to present it again now, in May of 2020, as we both celebrate Sean’s wellness, and also discern how to manage macro and micro fear and anxiety in the face of global pandemics.

As I write this introduction, I experience a kind of almost inexpressible strangeness. It’s somehow ominous, reading the words I wrote a year ago about worry and adversity, literally on the brink of being hurled into suffering I had never even imagined would touch my experience, let alone shape it. It’s the kind of feeling we have when we’ve been in a car accident and recall what we were doing or saying or what music we were listening to on the radio just moments before everything changed. This is an eery, strange sensation. Maybe we look there to try and make sense of the trauma. Maybe we are trying to control our reaction. Maybe we are even trying to change the outcome–as if that were possible.

What I am able to understand now, though, as I revisit what I was pondering on the eve of Sean’s diagnosis, is that the movement towards greater clarity and discernment is the very essence of life. We break open, fill the emptiness or the wound with salve, heal, and then break open again. And we do this, not at the same place, not at the place of the most recent wound, but at a different one. It might feel like the same one, but it’s not, for we have grown since the last breaking open.

When I wrote these words, searching for clarity and understanding in 2019, I of course, had no idea of what was to come. But what I am able to see now is that I was, even then, undergoing this continual reaching and leveling up, breaking open and healing. When Sean was diagnosed, I wasn’t prepared for adversity, but I was ready for it. In a strange, beautiful, mystical way, I was indeed ready. And as Abraham says, living an awakened, conscious life is the willingness to “be ready to be ready to be ready….”

That’s all we can really do, isn’t it? And so this is what I commit to everyday: staying open, living open- and whole-hearted. I’m not always successful and don’t actually want to be. The contrast is the seed of evolution. So we continue to face forward and choose alignment whenever possible. Who knows what will come of that?

I have been thinking a lot lately about how to manage my desire, and feeling like I need, to act in the face of adversity versus just being. Sometimes I call this surrendering. Sometimes I call it just accepting the “as is.” Regardless, though, of what I name it, the ability to be still in the midst of chaos comes from embodying the essence of the “I am.”

To be able to rest in the “I am” is to identify with Divine oneness, God, Source, light that lives in all of us. From here, we can choose to take action, which is sometimes warranted, or we can remain still and silent.

The latter choice is the one I’m pondering now. The desire to react and even respond in the face of an attack or criticism or unkind deed by another is so strong. We want to retaliate, to speak up, to be right. But here’s the thing; just because we’re right, or feel we are, doesn’t necessarily mean we should take any action at all. And this is the tough part, because we live in a world in which we are defined by our doing, not by are being.

In light of this desire to further understand stillness in the presence of chaos, this passage shown here from the Tao resonates deeply with me.

“Because [the Master] doesn’t display himself, people can see his light.” The one who remains still is enlightened. Even in the midst of others’ loud or aggressive egos, the Master rises above the din, not because he is louder, but because he is quiet.

“Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words.” Again, when he acts or speaks out of his essence rather than ego, he is trustworthy, because he accepts the “as is;” others’ approval of is inconsequential.

“Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him.” In other words, because he is not fixed to any dogma, belief, or institution, others can easily identify with him and thus feel an intimate connection, a oneness with him.

These passages are elegant and deeply inspiring. As I continue to evolve into my own wholeness, as my triggers lessen, as my desire to be right and to react diminishes, the Tao comforts and inspires me. This is the way.