Sometimes a wound is the place where
we encounter life for the first time, where we come to know its power
and its ways. Wounded, we may find a wisdom that will enable us to
live better than any knowledge and glimpse a view of ourselves and of
life that is both true and unexpected.
from the essay "Wrestling With the
Angel" by Rachel Naomi Remen
The year 2009 was for many a hellish time. The dramatic freefall of our
economy, brought on by the crashing of financial institutions
worldwide, brought with it heartache for many. Some lost what they
thought was going to be the money they would live on in retirement.
Others lost their jobs. Still others their homes. Whatever happened to
others happened to many of us at our Meeting. As we began a new
calendar year, one of our members suggested that we explore the
blessings of 2009. What blessings? Wasn’t everything bad for
everyone? According to Rachel Naomi Remen, author of the book My
Grandfather’s Blessings, there’s a silver lining in
every heartache. And through this discussion, nine people from our
Meeting discovered theirs.
We began our Brown Bag Discussion by reading the essay
"Wrestling With the Angel" by Rachel Naomi Remen. This essay
is a small part of her book My Grandfather’s Blessings,
recently read by our Book Group.
Our moderator then asked, "What does light signify in the
essay? We agreed that it signifies the end of the struggle. Remen’s
grandfather said it’s important to "put the struggle behind you–to
get on with your life."
And the light has significance here. In her essay Remen recalled
how her grandfather told her the Biblical story of Jacob. He had been
wounded in the leg, and an angel came down and blessed him. The angel
touched Jacob where he had been wounded. As a little girl. Remen
thought her grandfather meant it’s like when her mother kisses the
place where she’s hurt and it’s all better. It’s not like that
at all, for that didn’t relieve Jacob’s pain because he carried
this wound for the rest of his life.
If we encountered problems in our lives that damage a part of us,
will we always stay damaged? Somehow we have to go on with your lives.
One of those present had been talking to someone who had some hard
experiences. She was amazed at the help people gave and the care
towards her, praying for her. Now she wants to go on and do that for
others. And she wouldn’t have felt that way without her bad
And that brought up the question, "If you don’t have that hard
experience first, will you get to that place?"
Our discussion continued in earnest by acknowledging that it’s
important for us to be sensitive to each other and, should we have a
serious problem, to accept help from other people.
blessings come heartache. Bad times or events can make a people go in
a good or bad direction. For many, it’s the last straw, and they
give up. But for some, it’s a re-awakening, a time to pause and look
ahead to the future–a new beginning. Before we have blessings, do we
have to experience heartache? Might that mean that the hard
experience, itself, is a blessing? Sometimes, things happen to people
which make them go in a different direction. That’s just human
experience. It could be a positive or a negative direction. When we go
through something hard, does it make us more compassionate or less
A good example is the story of a group of men who climbed Mt.
Everest. Two out of the group survived. The one man lost his legs from
the knee down and he went on to invent prostheses that helped
thousands of people. The other man lost his hands and he became very
bitter and turned inward, completely rejecting the world.
Another member related her experiences with polio patients early in
her nursing career. Two women came in with severe muscular problems
from their polio. One ended up in the iron lung and the other lie in
bed and move the muscles she could and was able to walk out of the
Our moderator suggested that all this reminded her of M. Scott Peck’s
book The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978. The
first three words are "Life is difficult." The first chapter
says that life isn’t meant to be a smooth road. There are all sorts
of challenges. We can either be crushed by them or we can learn from
them and rise up and be stronger, understanding more about ourselves
Everything that comes our way–good, bad, or whatever–helps us
to live a better life if we let it. To succeed in life, a person must
have the will to survive. Unfortunately, not everyone is a survivor.
Many give up.
At this point, our discussion took a serious turn as one of our
weighty Friends confided that he struggled with a merciful God who
makes us struggle through life. "If we are warm, sensitive
people, why can’t life be good?" he asked us. Our replies
suggested that mankind wouldn’t have any religions if life was only
good. People began worshiping the sun because their crops weren’t
growing when they didn’t get enough rain. People created rituals to
make what they needed happen.
Native Americans see life as the ultimate challenge. They call this
challenge the sacred enemy, whose purpose is to bring out the best in
them. If life was easy all the time, they wouldn’t be challenged and
forced to be better than they already were. Do we need someone on a
par with ourselves to help us meet life’s challenges? That is the
Read Rachel Naomi Remen's essay, "Wrestling
With the Angel."
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