Ann Voskamp, writing from a conservative Christian viewpoint, reflects great depth stemming from having endured great loss in her life. And she notes in her book, “One Thousand Gifts” that, “awakening to joy awakens to pain”, and describes joy and pain as “two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who do not numb themselves to really living…Life is loss.” She also interprets Jacob’s wrestling with God as an inner spiritual battle that we all risk if we desire to change into the expression of our inner essence that so many of us fear. She describes the quest for wells which hold living water, noting that these wells don’t come without first seeking them with desperation and that “wells don’t come without first splitting open hard earth, cracking back the lids. There’s no seeing God face-to-face without first the ripping…It takes practice, wrenching practice, to break open the lids. But the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt he is.”
But, now I want to share the same truth in the words of someone from a vastly different perspective, Tony Kushner, the noted playwright and author of “Angels in America” and more recently author of the screenplay for the movie, “Lincoln.” A character in “Angels in America” poses the question, “How do people change” prompting the following answer:
Well, it has something to do with God so it’s not very nice. God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out…and the pain! We can’t even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It’s up to you to do the stitching. And then you up you get. And walk around. Just mangled guts pretending.
Wow, that is intense! “Mangled guts pretending!” Notions like this is enough to deter anyone from changing, to opt for the status quo, personally or collectively. Or, as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, to, “cling these ills we have than fly to others that we know not of.” (Shakespeare, in Hamlet)
And I can’t help but apply this to our country in its current turmoil. As Bob Dylan sang decades ago, “The times they are a changin’” and it is producing great political and social turmoil. And one point made in the brilliant movie Lincoln was the tremendous social unrest that Lincoln knew the country faced when he broached the subject of the 13th amendment.