The Dust Bowl of Loss

(Excerpt from Life As We Would Want It..Life As We Are Given by Ken Gire)

Steinbeck’s description of the Dust Bowl is what the weather of the heart is sometimes like for someone who has endured a great loss  A steady wind blows over you, opposes you, oppresses you.  The wind grows stronger, whisking away what little soil that surrounds the few rootlets of spiritual life you have left.  With the wind comes stinging reminders of how different your life is from everyone else’s.  Other people talk together, shop together, dine together, laugh together.  And the taken-for-granted normalness of their lives stings your face so raw you can’t bear it.  Your bloodshot eyes burn from the windblown grit.  Your tears wash away the grit, but not the burn.

To escape these stinging realities, you huddle yourself in your house.  You wedge cloth around the doors and windows, anything to shut out the outside world.  But a thin layer of dust covers everything.  No matter how thorough you are in your dusting, there is always something you have overlooked, always some reminder of your loss.

You lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling.  Your thoughts are incoherent pieces of a puzzle you have grown weary of, yet can’t get rid of.  The headache won’t go away.  Or the guilt.  Or the regret.  You’re out of tears, out of prayers.  You’ve waited in silence, wept in silence, wondered in silence.  You wonder if anyone is up there, beyond that ceiling, if anyone was ever up there, or if it has all been just so much pious talk and positive thinking, reinforced by the peer pressure of your religious friends.

Outside the sky is darkened.  The night is black.  Light from heaven, once as sparkling as a star-studded sky, cannot pierce the airborne dust.  What little light you have within you doesn’t spread very far, either.

Through the night the wind continues.  The night is long and it seems the dawn will never come.  Finally the dawn comes, but no day.  A gray sky veils the sun and God, who once seemed so radiant, now seems a dim red circle that gives little light.

Eventually the wind subsides, the dust settles, and it is safe to go outside again.  What then?  How do we reclaim the Dust Bowl that our life has become?  Where do we even start?

We start by realizing that reclaiming the land doesn’t happen overnight.  It didn’t happen overnight in Provence.  It didn’t happen overnight in Oklahoma.  And it doesn’t happen overnight in the wind-stripped terrain of our own lives.

But is does happen.  And it begins to happen when we pray.  Each time we pray, we plant a seed.  It takes years to sow them.  Even more years to grow them.  That is how we cooperate with God in reclaiming the landscape.

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