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When light passes though a lens, it is bent or "refracted." It is changed. We all see the world through the lens of our own experience. Here, Journeyers share some of those experiences and lenses with you. Refractions is Journey's community blog presenting stories, images and sounds that show how Journeyers see the world and the Divine. Contact Micha to add your contributions.

This project was very dear to our late pastor David Gentiles and is dedicated to his memory.

Where are we now?
Michelle Iskra

When we experience loss, proper grieving is difficult. Sometimes we withdraw, protecting the wound as if to say what we invested was somehow squandered or rejected by another, our selfhood disregarded. Sometimes we go out into the world, still in pain, seeing others through a distorted lens. Sometimes we recognize that what we're experiencing requires extra help, and we ask for it. Sometimes we tuck in and stay quiet, praying and reading until we are well enough to emerge again.

One of the losses we experience is not formally acknowledged by the world, and that is the loss of our youth. In many other cultures, aging people are respected and revered. In American culture, we are dismissed unless we can fit into the currently acceptable trends of coolness and attractiveness. Unless we hide certain aspects of our aging. Unless we fight it and disregard it.

The loss of youth is often compounded by the loss of a partner. As a single person, I meet many people who have begun seeking a new relationship before getting over one that has ended, attempting to fill the void. Having had the children grow up and move away, and the breakup or divorce or death take a partner, we struggle to find meaning and a place in the world. It's natural to want to forget about our pain instead of coming to understand it.

We must try to view ourselves and each other with compassion, understanding that each of us is fighting a hard battle. No one gets close to anyone else without a lot of time and effort, and it is rare for anyone to expend that. We are all frail boats, sometimes enjoying calm seas, sometimes tossed about by life and the pain of loss of purpose.

We must find a new purpose. How do we find this new purpose? What can we offer when our so-called important roles have ended?

We can help each other with our wounds and understand that when someone mysteriously disappears from view, they might need to be gone after. They might need to know they are missed.

We can offer our blood, literally and figuratively. We have wisdom and experience and, sometimes, patience. These gifts are priceless. If we possess a deep knowledge that love is all that matters in the end, we have to share that with those who don't believe it.

We can offer our companionship. Though we may not find another relationship or be as close as we'd like to our children and perhaps grandchildren, we can decide to try to understand other people and be present to them. We can offer kindness, consciousness, work. We can make the lunch, invite the friends over, and share community. We can gather our tools, drive over, and offer the help. We can extend our arms and gather someone into them, giving safe, physical touch to someone who might need it more than anything else.

We can trust God with our pain, remembering that we are called to help others as we limp ourselves, Jesus's hands and feet. Moving out into the world in love doesn't mean we won't need to tuck in again when we know we need healing quiet, but it will remind us of how many other people also struggle. Perhaps we might allow others to help us, as well. Even those who seem too young to know very much.


Claire's Story
September 6, 2018
Claire Reutter

Hi, Fellow Journeyers,

The quote last Sunday from Thomas Merton hit close to home. He had a revelation in the middle of a shopping district in Louisville, Kentucky, just an hour away from where my son came into this world in an unplanned home birth in a little log cabin in the woods. While standing at this street corner half a century ago, Thomas was “suddenly overwhelmed” with the realization that he “loved all these people.” In that moment, he understood that “we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.”

For a year now, I have been attending Austin Sanctuary Network (ASN) meetings. Three Central American immigrants fled life threatening situations and came knocking on our door in an effort to save their lives—and our call is to welcome the stranger. Sometimes I hesitate about where to sit amidst the dozens of people at these monthly meetings, but if I have the opportunity I usually awkwardly occupy an empty chair next to one of these friends in Sanctuary. The proximity makes me wonder about the experience of my neighbor who is anything but “alien.” I worry about the torture they endured, their ill health, the isolation and loneliness...

Some months I am so tired of going to these meetings: I wonder if I’m making a difference, I wonder why our elected officials aren’t helping. During these trying moments, I struggle to stay put and be present in this space for a mere two hours. I walk to the restroom and ask myself, “How on God’s green earth could I survive living in this building for hundreds and hundreds of days and not be able to leave for fear of deportation?”

Thomas Merton says his sudden revelation was like “waking from a dream of separateness.” My own revelation is happening more slowly. I might squeak out a few words as I pass Hilda or Alirio, force a smile or even offer a hug. These make me feel connected to our precious friends but in that solidarity, I also feel consumed by their pain. And thinking about that is almost unendurable for me.

Maybe it takes longer for me to wake up, like those dreams where I know I am asleep but I can’t open my eyes. I hope that some day soon I can experience the emotions of relief and immense joy that Thomas talks about, when we can all see each other “shining like the sun.” Then if we could see each other that way all the time, “There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.” And our friends in Sanctuary would be free. 

If you want to contribute your time and energy for Alirio, Hilda and Ivan, please contact me, or visit the website at austinsanctuarynetwork.org.

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