Arrogance, Cups of Reality, and Surrender. Oh: and Tattoos

Over the course of the last many months, I’ve become uncomfortably aware of…well, my arrogance. That whole bossing-God-around thing; me telling God what will make me feel better, what will help me move forward, what He “has” to do in order for me to want to live again, in light of this great, great loss. Who, exactly, do I think I am? And I say this not as though God is like…The Wizard of Oz (“pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”): power-mad, arbitrary and capricious. I say this with a dawning re-awakening and re-awareness (not a word, but it works) of Who God Is. What God Is.

And then there is my old “friend,” the author Henri Nouwen (a Catholic priest, now deceased; he had an incredible gift for words that reach your soul), who wrote about “drinking the cup.” If you’ve read any New Testament, or heard some quotes from it, you might be aware that Jesus – in his final hours – asked God to “take this cup of suffering from me…” In this he was speaking of not really wanting to be beaten to shreds and then getting nailed through his wrists and ankles to the cross…a punishment reserved for criminals in that era. But he finished his sentence with “however; not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22: 42) Nouwen says Jesus isn’t the only one presented with a cup…the cup that is your life, the cup that contains all the joy but also all the suffering you will experience. In taking and drinking this cup you’ve been given, you quit banging your head against the wall and instead embrace life fully, deeply, completely; and you find God is there, and the truest you is there, in all of it.

Tom Zuba speaks of the day, in the months after the death of his eldest son (which followed the deaths of his toddler daughter and his wife in the preceding 15 years), when he reached the end of his rope…laid on the floor of his house and surrendered to reality; he gave up fighting what IS. And he found that decision…to surrender to THIS instead of aching/wanting/screaming for THAT…transformative in his journey to healing.

My life is my life is my life; our lives are our lives. Maybe you are reading this in the midst of pain, loss, sorrow, vanquished hopes, denied expectations, deep anger: I know this place. We could live here; we sometimes/often feel we have a right to exactly what we are feeling (betrayed), because we all have this idea that life was not supposed to include THIS; that we were, in fact, promised – somewhere? – a happy ever after of sorts. Or maybe that’s just me.

But even if tragedy hasn’t touched your immediate life/loves yet, if you’ve lived a while, you begin to notice it’s everywhere. Cancer, heart disease, age, tragic accidents start snatching folks away. Dominoes fall.

What life is also teaching me, what I hope is God is also saying, whispering, guiding me toward is this concept: the next step of faith is to just…let go. Let go of that death grip on what you MUST have, on the life you thought you were going to have. Let go of your dreams. Not because He doesn’t care; indeed He cares more deeply than we can fathom. But we let go and surrender because otherwise we often “create idols” – we can end up clinging to our own ideas, demands, dreams – in wanting something else more than anything, even God. We let go because, like Tom Zuba, we finally get tired of slamming against a wall that will never, ever move. We let go because we start to understand what trust means: God is there to catch us. Always.


Mark had only one girlfriend, ever. Her name is Emily (you saw her artwork in an earlier post – she draws Mark as angels), and she is one of Sarah’s best friends…and her mother is one of mine (talk about convoluted). Anyhow: Emily is an amazing artist. She and Sarah decided to get tattoos, honoring Mark, and Emily designed them; both are spaceships, although very different renderings.


I’ve actually thought about getting a tattoo – two, really, just words – on the inside of both my wrists for years. Maybe in very pale ink. Just to remind me of essential truths I don’t ever want to forget. The words have varied but these are 3 top picks:


And now I add:


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