in captivitatem redigentes omnem intellectum in obsequium Christi

Endurance

posted Sep 18, 2017, 8:48 PM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Sep 19, 2017, 4:01 AM ]

You find yourself here, on a new path. You did not want this road. You did not ask for it. But you are here now and you must navigate foreign territory. 

I'm in this land too, on my own path a few steps further in. But I've been here long enough to know the shape and feel of the land. I know a little of what it is like to walk here. I know its contours.

I hear others marvel at your ability to walk forward so soon. I hear them speak kind words. They call you brave. They cheer your fidelity and resolve. They see something heroic in you. And there's a sense in which they are right. You are enduring and this is something worthy of our admiration. 

But this may not be how it feels right now. You walk because there is nothing else you can do. You cannot inhabit another space. There is no way to go back to familiar ground, or better paths. You place one foot in front of the other. You draw on habits and routine, practices that stabilize. You don't know what else to do, or how to even think about where you are. It's all new. And it is awful. None of this feels noble, or inspiring, or courageous, or heroic, or admirable - it just feels like a feeble attempt to continue, to endure. 

And if you are like me and the others I've met in this space, there will be many times when you won't be able to move forward. You will be still, unable to move; or, you will fall apart, doubled over to the ground. Others might not see it. They are primed to see forward momentum. They won't see what's hidden. 

In these times, you may need to dwell where you are. If you cannot move, rest. The paths you walk in this space will demand more than you can imagine. From where I stand, I pray that you will not confuse your ability to move forward today with what it means to endure in faith tomorrow. 

Whether you walk, or you are still, or you fall apart - you can do all of these while enduring in faith. What matters is the endurance.

ADC (9/18/17)

Say His Name

posted Apr 5, 2017, 7:46 PM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Sep 18, 2017, 8:44 PM ]

There is this temptation. It is a temptation born of the sincerest of intentions. It is the slight nudge, the suggestion that a mention or a question will cause further sorrow.


It may. There are days when, at the sound of his name, or at the sight of a child who could have been him, or the feel of something remembered, I am left undone. If that is the day you choose to say a word, I will bleed.


But please say his name anyways. I don’t hate these tears. I may turn aside, I may brush them away, I may save face, I may feign strength, I may not respond, but I will go home and I will have heard his name again. And this means more than you know. I will appreciate that you remembered enough to say it aloud.


I don’t doubt that you think of him. I’m relatively confident that you remember him. I’m nearly certain that he has left an impression. Put them to words and say them so that I can hear. I love the sound of his name.


And the days when I don’t bleed, each moment given to thoughts of him is joy doubled. This is more than enough joy to make these tears beautiful.


ADC 4/5/17

Playground

posted Jan 16, 2017, 8:17 AM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Jan 16, 2017, 8:49 AM ]

I sit to watch joy play, enclosed in spaces memory built.

I sit alone in thought, backward and forward drifting from present to past - returning.

I sit and wonder, I sit to hear a child.

A day for thought - a day to imagine how else things might have been. 

A time punctured by voices of children, laughing.

A structure, a symbolic space where death springs to life.

Or, is it an empty space - a container for the mixed up grace of life and death?

Or, is it a full space - a witness to Joy running over death?

It is the little ground to which I come: a playground for lost thoughts and his laughter.

How Should I Describe This Grief?

posted Sep 20, 2016, 8:23 PM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Sep 20, 2016, 8:24 PM ]

How should I describe this grief?


Should I describe it as a property of place? The places of loss, of absence, of reminder, of resolve, of surrender, of tears. Should I tell it as a history of movements from places enveloped in loneliness to those pervaded by love? Should I narrate grief as a movement from place to place, cataloging the ways sorrow has forever altered space?


Or, is better construed as a way of marking time? The moments of sorrow, the long, plodding vigil, the hours of wandering thoughts and tears. Should I tell it as a ritual of days significant to us alone? Should I narrate grief as a movement through time, cataloging the ways sorrow has forever divided before and after?  


Neither place, nor time - they are inadequate. Grief may be tethered to places and bound up in time, but it is better characterized as a form of address.


In it, we are addressed by suffering, by fear, by anger. We are addressed by our stubborn questions, our brittle thoughts, our fractured and frail faith, our dependency. We are addressed by the care of some and the distance of others, by compassion and indifference. In it, we offer up an address. It is an address of lament, of questioning, of trust, of confusion, of invocation, of wondering, of sorrow, of wishfulness, of hope, of strained and straining faith, of petition, of anger. It is not always tidy or appropriate; it is often wordless, inarticulate.


How should I describe this grief?

Not by reference to places or times, but as form of address. It is an address we offer before You and to You. It is an address we offer in bent but as yet unbroken hope.

ADC (9/20/16)

Solace

posted Apr 26, 2016, 7:53 AM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Apr 26, 2016, 7:53 AM ]

I found solace in the broken bread and poured out wine, in the remembrance that His love stooped low, assuming our frame, our suffering, our death, and our hell. 

I found it in quiet prayers in an empty sanctuary where no one spoke, in the uninterrupted silent spaces before a stone wall on which his name is etched. 

I found it in the loving care of those whose presence mixed comfort and joy into our suffering 

But I could have missed it. 

Entering makes one a target of anxious thoughts and misplaced prayers. Entering means subjecting oneself to words poorly framed or careless words pronounced incautiously and with authority. It takes courage to leave that space and to return and kneel at an altar to receive from the hands of those whose words wound.

For those who suffer, the spaces of healing are often places of fear. For their sake, let us be mindful of their courage and the gifts of their presence with us. Let us silence our anxiety, our thoughtless prayers, and our false words so that they might enter and receive the solace they need.

ADC (4/26/15)

I Would Say More

posted Apr 10, 2016, 8:59 PM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Apr 10, 2016, 9:09 PM ]

If I had to write our story again, I would say more. 

I would say something about how different grief is when it has moved from the center to the periphery. It is no longer focal; it occupies less than most of our thoughts. 

I would say something about the differences between grief when it is obvious and when it is hidden from view - when it is no longer spectacle. 

I would say something about how it contains all the sadness but is enveloped in the sense that it is no longer shared. 

I would say something about the countless times when something simple sends us spiraling. I can count at least three times this week - undetectable unless you are near.

I would say more now, some of it unpleasant. And I would probably end repeating the earlier point: there is grace here too.

ADC (4/10/16)

A Prayer in Need

posted Apr 1, 2016, 8:09 AM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Apr 1, 2016, 8:13 AM ]

I do not pray for safety, but for a courage to still these fears.
I do not pray against doubt, but for a faith that wrestles and relents.
I do not pray for protection, but for a hope that all can be healed.
I do not pray for satisfaction, but for a love that consoles.

Lord, I do not pray from courage, or in faith, or with hope, or out of love; I ask because I fear, I falter, I fail, and I wither. 

Lord have mercy in this need.

Writing Joy

posted Mar 23, 2016, 8:52 PM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 8:54 PM ]

I don’t write joy well. My voice does better with sadness. My work expresses darker tones better than bright. I write laments. Describing the disorientation requires less exertion than its contrary. And when I turn my attention to joy, these meditations reflect the entanglements of sorrow. 

Writing joy requires efforts that leave me unsettled. Why does it seem so difficult? Why does it leave me unnerved? Why is it that I can’t discern its character with the clarity I see in hope, or peace, or grace, or consolation? Why am I troubled and perplexed by joy? Is it fugitive because I don’t trust its lightness? Is it elusive because I’m not confident in what it promises? Is it difficult because I’ve been bruised by disappointment? Or, do I just confuse joy for something else?

Perhaps it is because I want easy joys. I want the feel of joy - joy’s cheery moods. I want the delight that comforts because it requires nothing of me. And, in my more honest moments, I think I deserve this. I have suffered; I think I’m owed this much. 

But even the simple joys of childhood aren’t this immature. A child’s joy is born of the ability to receive manifold gifts of love. The child’s laugh so paradigmatic of joy is the fruit of love.

The feeling of joy may dissolve. A joyful mood may give way to something less cheery. But real joy isn't the feeling or mood. It is the delight of union with the other. Every enduring joy I've ever known is the fruit of dependence. But my words fail when I try to write it.

ADC (3/23/16)

Joy and Sorrow

posted Mar 20, 2016, 10:24 AM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 8:54 PM ]

Our experience is not merely sorrowful. It contains rays of joy that cast their light over the darkness of the wait and the darkness of the grief. These are the joys of presence with him, of a union that cannot be taken from us. Joy is in the presence of the beloved either in memory, in the present, or in anticipation of some future. 


Josef Pieper writes, “Man can (and wants to) rejoice only when there is a reason for joy. And this reason, therefore, is primary; the joy itself is secondary. But are there not countless reasons for joy? Yes. But they can all be reduced to a common denominator: our receiving or possessing something we love - even though this receiving or possession may only be hoped for as a future good or remembered as something already past.” 


Sorrow, like joy, is secondary. It is our love that sews joy. It is also the love that leaves us sorrowing. Our sorrow and our joy are possible only in and through love. And today I cling to the memory of a loved presence that is unforgettable, unmistakable; it is a joy spanning eternity in just a few short hours.


ADC 3/20/16

Words

posted Nov 16, 2015, 5:31 AM by Aaron Cobb   [ updated Nov 16, 2015, 5:33 AM ]

How many words to say one simple thing? 
How many thoughts to convey something so singular? 
How many pages filled? 

Maybe just one - just one for each day dwelling in absences; 
just one for every loving word lost in vacant spaces; 
just one frail and failing word that says less than I mean and conveys less than you deserve. 

Just one more emptying word still not enough.

ADC (11/16/15)

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