Friends, here is a Mustard Seed parable for you to soak in. But probably not the one you already know. One of the hundreds of delicious little treasures I want to share with you from The Book of Joy is a new way to think of grief and how it connects us to each other.
This story is a Buddhist fable shared by the Dalai Lama. I’m just going to quiet the short paragraph directly from the book:
“A woman lost her child and was inconsolable in her grief, carrying her dead child throughout the land, begging for someone to help heal her child. When she came to the Buddha, she begged him to help her. He told him he could help her if she would collect mustard seeds for the medicine. She eagerly agreed, but then the Buddha explained that the mustard seeds needed to come from a home that had not been touched by death. When the woman visited each house in search of the mustard seeds that might heal her son, she discovered there was no house that had not suffered the loss fo a parent, or a spouse, or a child. Seeing that her suffering was not unique, she was able to bury her child in the forest and release her grief.”
It doesn’t have to be death, though that is a loss that will eventually unite all of us and possibly the one we all fear the most. I can easily think of several bright, terrifying moments of grief in my own life that have actually softened the more I looked around and saw that other people had lived through the same, or worse. Usually much worse. I bet you would agree.
Seeing that her suffering was not unique, she was able to release her grief.
There’s a lot of comfort available in a loving community. And if we can open up enough, there’s a lot of healing and learning that can happen too. How do people survive trauma? How do they make sense of tragedy? How do they cope, and how do they thrive despite their circumstances and mistakes?
In friendships where I feel comfortable sharing the darkest chapters of our family’s story, and when I can be steady-nerved enough to listen to other people’s darkest chapters, God always shows up. He always showers this peaceful, soothing veil over all the chaos and fear. He answers by reminding me that we are not alone. We are neither the first nor the last to be terrified, and His Love accomplishes actual miracles.
Things are hardly ever as bad as they feel when we think we are alone. When we think our suffering is unique.
Relax a little, into some trusted community. Dare to open up to other people’s suffering, if only to realize how not unique your own suffering is. Then let all of that emotion turn into compassion. And let that compassion turn to hope.
Check in again soon for more about community (Ubuntu, in the African tradition) and a couple of delicious mustard seed recipes. I wanted to include all of this together, but it’s just so much.
Happy Sunday friends. Thank you for checking in.
“A person is a person through other persons.”
~Archbishop Desmond Tutu