“Where There Is Ruin, There Is Treasure”

Published on: October 11, 2017

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“No one would blame you if you quit,” my roommate said, after I’d returned to Unity Village after another family funeral. I was in my last term at Unity Institute when the unthinkable happened: my 9-year-old grandson was killed by an act of violence, murdered in his sleep by his own father. To say that grief was complicated was an understatement. Shocked into protective numbness, quitting school was the last thing on my mind. The hyper-focus on assignments was a welcome relief from the flood of anger, rage, sadness, helplessness, and guilt that would surge along with my snarl of questions for God.

Did I forget “The Prayer for Protection” that day for my grandson? Did I not pray enough? Does prayer even work? Where was divine intervention—what happened to grace? What kind of God would let this happen?

Suddenly, nothing made sense. Unity Principles I’d taught for years now felt like a foreign language I couldn’t comprehend.

Classmates, teachers, friends all offered their support—mostly silent support, for what could anyone say? Their love and compassion carried me through the most painful season of my life. Somehow, I made it through the last term of ministerial school, L&Os (licensing and ordination oral exams), ordination, and graduation. It was a bittersweet time: while classmates were celebrating ministry job offers, marriage proposals, and new beginnings, I was heading back to California to be with a grieving daughter, her shell-shocked teenager, and an upcoming murder trial.

Life as I’d knew it, plans for the future, and—most of all—my relationship with God pixilated into fragments of uncertainty. Though one thing did remain, which surprised me: I could still pray. A safety-net of faith had caught me.

Many calls to Silent Unity provided comfort and strength. A weekly prayer partner was a life-line of hope. Regular sessions with a counselor and spiritual director were welcome compassionate companions. Journaling and weekly writing group, grief workshops, private tearful tantrums were all part of the process of finding the pieces to assemble a new picture of life. Ministering to a loving Unity community who values authenticity and heart connection helped to weave my threads of inner strength. It took more than two years before I was willing to consider: Could anything good actually come from this tragic loss?

 

When I was ready to look, here’s what I found that has served me in ministry:

My heart was cracked open. I felt the pain of the world—a tenderness emerged for those grieving loss, and surprisingly, I also felt glimmers of compassion for those who had perpetrated loss. The man responsible for the crime was behind bars. He was once a boy himself. I ached at the thought of the depth of his despair and separation that drove him to harm another. In a crystallizing moment of clarity, I knew what my role as a minister would be: a lighthouse of love. If my words and presence could bring just one person back from the edge of darkness, serving in ministry would be worth it.

Now, I am able to sit with people in the deep places of their grief, confusion, anger, and disappointment. I can listen. Hold sacred space for them to be. Let them know they are not alone; that Holy presence, divine Love is at work companioning them to the other side of whatever seems insurmountable. I am able to hold the power of possibility for their soul, knowing the magnitude of their unconquerable Spirit, the eternal Essence, that has the capacity to rise from the rubble and ruin even stronger than before. As Sufi poet Rumi observed:

 

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”

 

The death of my grandson is one of four family deaths in five years: father, mother, sister passing—one per year. This close encounter with loss has prompted me to re-think and re-work my concept of who and what God is to me. Paul Smith’s work on The Three Faces of God has been very helpful.

Going through grief, the Second Face—the Intimate God—was the one that served me the most as I dialogued and prayed and listened for the God I’d felt so close to since childhood. The Third Face—the Infinite God—Creator of all, was one I surrendered to when I realized there would be some things I would never understand about my grandson’s death. The I Am, the Inner First Face of God, is one that has taken time to ease back into.

Before this experience, I would meet people’s pain with Principle. Now, I have learned that citing Unity principle is not helpful when someone is in deep pain: an I Am—First Face of God prayer—may not reach them or serve them at all. I discovered that meeting people where they’re at is more important than trying to pray “by the book” and sometimes a silent “I am here and I see you” is the most effective prayer of all.

In Unity, we don’t talk much about death. Unless it’s the story of Myrtle Fillmore saying goodbye to her staff, seemingly choosing her departure with the announcement that she could be more effective “from the other side.” Or unless it’s the story of Charles Fillmore who had no intention of dying, but when facing his last hours on earth, felt like a failure because he could not overcome death.

Thankfully, more Unity resources for coping with death and grief are emerging. At the 2017 Unity People’s Convention, I was grateful to attend an excellent workshop on grief support by Revs Ogun Holder and Therese Lee. Please post in the comments if you know of other Unity resources. [See Related Article below.]

The layers of healing continue to peel. Sometimes a song in the grocery store will bring on a “grief burst” and I’ll be pulling out a Kleenex in the produce section of Safeway. In times of loss, may compassion, support, prayer, and self-care gently return you to the treasure of your heart.

 

Editor’s Note: Unity Worldwide Ministries and Unity World Headquarters have partnered on an Outreach Project to make resources available to ministries to distribute to their communities. The initial resources focus on dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. There will be other themes in the future, such as “caring for the caregiver.” Contact Cheri Jamison at [email protected] A website is in the works for early 2018.

Related Article

Through the Valley: Being a Minister Through & After Trauma by Revs Ogun Holder and Therese Lee

Bio

Rev Robyn Plante is minister at Unity Center of Davis, CA, where she and her community “envision a world transformed by divine Love.” She enjoys writing, singing, speaking and co-creating sacred space & is a musician for a chapter of Dances of Universal Peace. She provides safe space for others to discover their authentic voice in Spiritual Writing Workshops.

Robyn Plante

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"Advancing the movement of spiritual awakening and transformation through Unity, a positive path for spiritual living."

  • Robyn, what a gift you are to his world! Thank you for sharing your continued journey with us. Jim and I remember you with such fondness during seminary together and our hearts broke with you on that terrible day. We were and continue to be inspired by your strength in the face of the unthinkable.

    Thank you for showing up in the world the genuine and beautiful way you do. Our prayers continue for you and your family and we are honored to serve with you in the Unity movement.

    Big Love,
    Jim and Donna Mullis

    • Robyn Plante

      Donna & Jim, Thank you for your love and support. Many blessings on your beautiful ministry.

  • Strongsong

    Robyn, my dear, dear friend, I am moved deeply by your sharing! You are awesome in your clarity and authenticity! Sending love and big hugs! <3

    • Robyn Plante

      Thank you for your kind words and support. Glad to hear this served you~

  • Rev Joy Wyler

    Robyn, thank you for sharing. This year’s Unity Advent booklet includes an article on a Remembrance Service we usually hold around the holidays that allows us to celebrate the love we carry in our heart for those no longer around our holiday table.

    • Robyn Plante

      Joy, thank you for your article on the Remembrance Service. Such a wonderful way to honor the love we hold in our hearts for those who have passed. The responsive reading from the Hebrew tradition with the refrain, “We remember them” is one I look forward to using with my community. Blessings

  • Pat Bell

    Dear Rev. Plante, what a powerful sharing. Allowing people to BE in their feelings is so important. Rev. Therese is with us here at Unity of Hilton Head and we are very blessed by what she brings as well. A book I found extremely helpful in my practice is “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Frank Cherry.

    • Robyn Plante

      Thank you, Pat, for your response and for your book recommendation that will help people who are searching for resources.

    • Pat Bell

      There are at least two editions of this book and the later edition has a different co-author. All give the basics and are easy and powerful to work with.

  • dridge3770

    whew! Thank you for sharing this very painful experience with us. It always helps to be reminded to meet our congregants where they are. As for “Why would God let this happen?” — I, too, have left that inferred personal God behind to embrace the Transcendent God, while still adhering to the concept of the Immanent, but not personal, God. While C. Fillmore held God as Divine Mind, I see God as Consciousness Itself, the ACTIVITY of Divine Mind and accessible to each and every one to be expressed in our thoughts, words and actions. From this perspective, death is merely a transition to another way of experiencing Consciousness Itself and can be a vehicle for transformation for both the deceased and those in relationship with the deceased.

    • Robyn Plante

      Hi David, thank you for your response and thought-provoking comments on consciousness. If we believe that energy/Spirit never dies, then it goes somewhere…and just because the form is gone, does not mean the relationship has ended. Good topic for an article.

      • it’s interesting that we get caught in this three dimensional construct in which we seem to live. “… it has to go somewhere”. what if it actually DOESN’T “go somewhere”? What if there is no where else to go?

        • Robyn Plante

          Interesting, David. Can you say more about this?

          • first of all, know that I know this is speculation :). AND I also lose patience (yes, this is one of my many “growing edges”) with stated certainty by “spiritual leaders” that “this” or “that” is Truth. In reality, we only have experience-substantiated opinions (and many times just “opinions” without experience to back it up). But let me offer one speculation: a number of renowned physicists are of the opinion that our universe is made up of 10 or 11 dimensions, 5 or 6 are “curled up” and not apparent in our perceptual world. What if consciousness occupied one or more of those curled up dimensions and our experience of consciousness is facilitated by receptors in our brain that access that (those) dimension(s)? Could we imagine that consciousness then doesn’t go anywhere, that the “loss of consciousness” is merely the disabling of those receptors and that consciousness continues in that curled up dimension(s)? That speculation calls me to greater humility as I offer spiritual guidance to those I serve. ;)

          • Robyn Plante

            Thank you for elaborating, David. This speculation opens up some fascinating possibilities to ponder.

  • Ahriana Platten

    Thank you so much for sharing so authentically. I have experienced several deaths over the past few years and become more familiar with grief. So much of what you shared rang true for me.

    • Robyn Plante

      My heart is with you, Ahriana. Thank you for posting.

  • Elizabeth Mora

    Robyn, I’m so touched by this beautiful article. I have 3 young children in my church who lost parents this year. Your post helps me and will help them and their caregivers and parents.

    • Robyn Plante

      Elizabeth, thank you for your comment. My prayers are with you as you guide these young ones and the adults in their lives.

  • Cheryl Harrison

    Thank you for sharing your story in such a deeply personal way and for showing the way through such an unimaginably painful experience. When awfulness happens, we can either lose our faith or use our faith. Your story is a powerful reminder for me that, even when our beliefs are challenged to the core, there is always treasure within, waiting to be discovered. Thank you