the colour of our lives

poetry • celebration • faith • nature • humanity • imperfections • glory


of all our internal rules
and private doctrine
few are as guarded as
fiercely, like a shameful
secret, as our attempt
to explain suffering. We
may literally defend this
to the death. To be
wrong is like denying
our sacred texts, discarding
the critical components of
our life’s machine; to
be right: pragmatic; tidy;
shallow, but effective, until
you expose your own pain:
raw, naked, unguarded, and
we all flounder in our hollow

With a silence that looks like grace, you smilingly accept the shields we offer to our own hearts: assurance of greater good; of absolution not ours to give; some practical advice. Our neglect of your pain stifles the part of you that discomforts us; you survive, diminished.

forsaking satisfaction for connection, we drink with you a bitter draught, shed unbidden and unwanted tears. Recognizing the insult in our theologising, we do not discuss higher callings or sanctification. Without reminding you of the idea of a suffering messiah, we become Him, silent companions in your need.

FlounderImage from the Atlas of Living Australia

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11 thoughts on “flounder

  1. This post is thought-provoking.
    “our attempt
    to explain suffering”
    I have read this over and over.

    • Thanks Evelyn! You got a comment in even before I have tidied up the last few edits 🙂 With this one I thought I needed to add another tag, ‘a bit on the preachy side’… looking at my last few, implicit preachiness seems to be a trend. I’m glad you considered it worth a re-read.

      • Evelyn on said:

        it doesnt seem preachy at all, but rather like a forum of discussion…
        I wonder why we feel obligated to explain suffering. does it make it hurt any less?
        that is a strong cord you’ve struck there.

  2. I always thought we tried to explain suffering because we felt we had to get God off the hook, or because we felt we had to defend believing in the essential goodness of God. The first is a “hollow deceit”, indeed, and we show we know it is by our nervousness when we do it. The second might have some validity? I agree with Evelyn; this is a forum for discussion; preachy only because it may come with the territory.

    • Thanks Carroll… just quickly, I always feel it’s a bit weird to try to defend God… I guess you’re talking about defending our belief though, but defensiveness… well, you know.

      • Actually I think it is a subtle distinction between defending our belief and defending God, we automatically identify the two though we shouldn’t. I have sensed, in interacting with fellow believers, that when they (we) thought they were defending their beliefs it was from a feeling that the skeptics were not so much attacking their beliefs as they were attacking God. I think you are right that to try to defend God is a bit weird. Defensiveness is our problem. At least it has been mine…
        I can be obsessive about theological stuff so let me know if I get out of line. I don’t want to de-rail the discussion from your poem which is really good. I will be thinking about it for a good long time.

        • Please don’t stop discussing or even obsessing! If we can’t get a little out of line here then where else? And remember I have a delete button at my end 😉

      • Evelyn on said:

        I too have been thinking about this concept of defending our suffering since I read this.
        If we believe God has a plan for us, and this plan includes suffering, yet we want to believe in the wisdom of God, of COURSE we are going to defend it. We want to feel solid and safe in God’s plan and also that we made the right choice in believing in God and his teachings.
        Dont you think?

        • Hi Evelyn… well, yeah, I agree that it would be natural for us to defend our belief to ourselves. My issue, and I guess where some of this is born from, is when we expect our personal justifications to work for someone else’s suffering. I have been in far too many ‘conversations’ where the suffering person takes second place to another person’s private theology; the sufferer doesn’t get heard, and all that happens is that the theologiser gets a soapbox and lets themselves off the hook of some authentic but difficult connection. I’ve done the theologising / explaining-away thing way too much myself…

  3. …and thanks to you both for weighing-in here…

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