“Karma” for Catholics?

what dreams may comeToday on Facebook I vented a teeny bit — as obliquely as possible — about  someone who has been an unspeakable thorn in my side.

“What is the Catholic equivalent of karma?” I asked, tongue in cheek. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to ask, “… the English equivalent of schadenfreude,” but then my grasp of German is another sore subject.

In reality, I realize there is no such thing as karma. Divine intervention, absolutely. Natural consequences, sure. Grace beyond imagining, no question. The whole Julian of Norwich school of “And all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be most well.”

Sometimes, though, taking the high road requires superhuman virtue; staying on that road requires an actual infusion of grace. For example, several months  ago someone I thought of as a friend inexplicably betrayed me. We happen to run in similar social circles, and so putting her entirely out of mind (which is typically how I handle this kind of thing) wasn’t an option. My attempt to reconcile (by letter) was ignored. She went her way, I went mine, and each time her name came up, my stomach would tighten.

Forgiveness is a funny thing. It doesn’t always feel good, at least not right away. Sometimes it can feel like the other person “wins” unjustly. It can be hard to let go, yet the person who said, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die” did have a point.

And so, I did the only thing I knew how to do: Took the high road, in baby steps. Unclenched my grasp, finger by finger, and tried to move on. “Bless her, Lord. Or at least, make me willing to bless her. Or at least, make me willing to be willing to forgive.”

Do I wish the whole thing would come to light, once and for all? There was a time when I did. But today a wise person reminded me: We can’t really know the full implications of our actions (or anyone else’s) in this life, and we won’t fully “get it” until we get to see the whole story from God’s point of view. Like in the movie What Dreams May Come (one of my favorite films), even the worst moments of our lives can turn out to be … something beautiful.

The things that are most painful, here and now, will likely look very different in heavenly light. And that is the ultimate grace, knowing that each day is one step closer to home … and lasting peace.

Bless them, God. Bless them all.

 

 

“What Dreams May Come”: when feelings are bigger than life

what dreams may comeOne of my favorite “Hollywood” treatments of the afterlife is What Dreams May Come, with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding. Williams plays a doctor, his wife an artist. When their two children are killed in a car accident, he and his wife are barely able to come to terms with their death before another tragedy occurs that separates the two of them. The rest of the movie, reminiscent of Ghost, is about love that transcends even death.

Years ago, I had an author friend Charlie Shedd. I would sit on the glider on the back porch with him and he would regale me with stories of his Martha, how even after she died he would catch a memory of her that was so strong, it was like she was still there, coming out of the bathroom in her favorite robe, or sitting on the glider in her natty yellow sweater. I never knew Martha, but somehow when he described her to me, it was as if I’d known her all my life.

Today on Facebook, I came across countless wedding pictures of couples celebrating their anniversaries — ten years, fifteen, twenty or more. Each looks so young and vibrant, so hopeful. Each a moment frozen in time, before “real life” sets in — for better or worse.

And as I looked at those pictures, and again as I watch this movie, I am reminded of one of the greatest gifts of marriage; how in the boat of family life, one is the anchor, the other the sails. And when that boat is rocked by waves of uncertainty, they provide for each other that safe haven.

This is the self-gift of marriage; not simply the unbridled joy, but the unbridled pain as well.