Life Isn't Just About the Journey

In my last column, I introduced you to writers Amy Andrews, a convert to the Catholic faith, and Jessica Mesman Griffith, who re-embraced Catholicism as an adult after a childhood in which her parents became evangelical. To help work out their beliefs—and their struggles with their beliefs—they started handwriting letters to each other as a lenten discipline several years ago. Those letters have now been collected into the book “Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters.”
For Griffith, one of the biggest reasons she returned to the Church was the fact that we have a suffering savior. Specifically, the Way of the Cross helped her deal with the losses she’d endured in her life, especially the death of her mother when she was a child. During an interview on “Christopher Closeup,” Griffith told me, “I needed to acknowledge death, to acknowledge that suffering was a reality and something I had endured. I wasn’t getting that from the churches I had been in during my high school years with my family….I needed a way to feel that this story was not over with my mother and the other people we had lost—that we were going to be able to have some connection with them. It’s not something we’re waiting for, it’s not something that’s going to happen when we die. It’s something that we have access to right now. There’s not a wall between us and heaven. It’s much more permeable than we might believe.”
The challenge of dealing with death became a painful reality for Andrews and her husband when their baby died. She recalled, “I felt empty, like the hopes of my marriage, the hopes my parents had for me, the plans I had for my own life—everything was gone, and I was grieving this person.”
Thankfully, Andrews found hope and consolation through her church community and friendship with Griffith: “Seeing Jess beside me, weeping when I was weeping, was more comforting than almost anything else. That’s the incarnational nature of our faith. I was seeing God suffering through her, and that absolutely lightened my burden. It didn’t make it go away, but it redeemed it.”
As they chronicle in “Love and Salt,” Andrews and Griffith have traveled a rewarding, profound, difficult road together, and they know their successes and stumbles through life will continue, like they do for everybody. They’re firmly committed to keeping their endpoint in sight, however.
Andrews explained, “The reason I think it’s unsatisfying to say that [life is] all about the journey is that you don’t recognize that we, as Christians, believe in a destination. We believe that we are headed for union with God in eternity. It’s not that I don’t think the journey’s important—I absolutely do. It’s just that it’s a journey with a specific destination in mind that then casts meaning back on the rest of life. If we just say it’s all about the journey, we’re lying to ourselves. There is something coming that is helping us make sense of what we are doing as we’re walking down the road.”
As we move through Lent, those are important insights to keep in mind. None of us escapes suffering. But with God’s grace and the support of good people, that suffering can be redeemed and bring us one step closer to our final destination with the risen Jesus.
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, BUILDING SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org.

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