Day 35: A New Story
BY ED SLOANE | April 5, 2022
For many years, I served as the spiritual director at a parish summer camp. I was privileged to receive the stories of many young people as they discerned not only who they were but who God was to them in and through their stories.
Many of these stories involved searching questions about where God was in moments of uncertainty, loss, and tough transitions. Sometimes, at the heart of these stories was a concern that they, or someone they loved, was being punished by God. Sometimes they worried that their actions or an aspect of their identity might create distance between themselves and God.
Somewhere along the way they had internalized a theology that links suffering or frustrations with God to sinfulness. Indeed, the author of Numbers explicitly draws this connection. Having followed God and Moses out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites are wandering in the desert without the basic material resources necessary for survival. In frustration they cry out to God only to be met with more suffering in the form of poisonous serpents sent by God as punishment for their complaints.
As I sat with this troubling image of God, I kept returning to Moses whom the Israelites turn to in their frustration. God instructs Moses to craft a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole, which will heal those who look upon it. My thoughts drifted back to the many stories I was privileged to receive over the years as young people opened their hearts and their lives to me.
Perhaps it was a camper who trusted me with a story of coming out, parental loss, or family struggle, a fight with a best friend, or questions about college and big life decisions. Sometimes through tears, or with a hug, I thanked them for sharing their story and reassured them that they were loved by God and others. While these reassurances may not have brought an end to their struggles, it was my hope that they were able to see their frustrations, struggles, and uncertainties in a new light as graced and holy moments of genuine searching for God through which they could begin to tell their story in a new way—one in which God was a source of their healing rather than the author of their pain.
- Who in your life is experiencing pain, suffering, or uncertainty?
- In what ways might you be called to be present to them in a special way during Lent?
Ed Sloane is originally from West Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in religious education and pastoral ministry at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. His writing focuses on approaches to education in faith through the lens of ecological justice and pastoral ministry with LGBTQIA+ youth. Ed is also a high school theology teacher.
Very good. God bless you.
I think that everyone is suffering and in pain in regard to how different our world is every day. Even more in pain and suffering are our priests of the archdiocese as they try to assist us in our suffering but are suffering themselves as they try to determine what is best for all of us. This suffering is sincere and difficult as they direct us toward toe will of God for each and every one of us. The priest call us to pray for the migrants and the people of Ukraine and Russia. They know that the global Church is in a tremendous amount of suffering and pain and they care to help. The weight on their shoulders is that of the Shepherd tring to assist the flock. Where can the priests turn? I hope to us and to each other so the kingdom of God is realized here on earth. Let us pray especially today for our Pope, Cardinals, bishops priests, and seminarians who struggle to find the best path for their flock.
Thank you for this beautiful reflection, I resonate deeply with the sentiments you shared. Those interactions of deep sharing and accompaniment with young people are what makes me feel proud and grateful that God has granted me my vocation. Peace to you Brother!
Thank you for your reflection. I, too, am searching and have spoken to several priests , expressing my frustrations with the Catholic faith but acknowledging an ongoing spiritual quest. Their response was mute. I would have appreciated some affirmation of God’s love, although I trust in God’s love. They seemed at a loss to respond. Kudos to you for being the visible presence of Christ love.
Reach out and listen to those hurting.
Thanks Ed. Indeed true healing comes from the Lord.