" 'There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they cannot hope,' Rumi promises. 'The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.'
"When Jenny died, all my spiritual practices failed me. I could not meditate, and the very thought of silent sitting infuriated me, as if someone were offering a Band-Aid to slap over a gunshot wound. Rituals were for regular people – people who were busy navigating the mundane obstacles of everyday life – not for those who have been stripped, shattered, and blessed by tragedy. Reading had always been my refuge. Now the only thing I could bear to read was literary fiction; I craved beauty, not philosophy. Sacred scriptures were written in a code I could not decipher, and I lacked the energy to try. Self-help books sounded ridiculous, presumptuous, and whenever I picked one up I would have the urge to throw it across the room. None of the tricks I had developed over decades on the spiritual path were adequate for mending my brokenness.
"Meanwhile, my career as a translator of the Christian mystics began to flower. Book after book unfolded, each one reflecting some facet of Christian wisdom teachings. . . . John of the Cross was teaching me to rest in radical unknowingness. Teresa of Avila was rekindling my yearning for union with the Beloved. Francis of Assisi was inspiring me to renew my vow to minister to those on the margins. Hildegard of Bingen was showing me how to praise God's greening energy rippling throughout the natural world. Our Lady of Guadalupe was reconciling indigenous wisdom and Christian theology in my own troubled heart. The Archangel Michael was infusing me with the fearlessness of the spiritual warrior.
"Everything I needed to make my way through the landscape of loss – navigating by starlight, subsisting on nettles and honey – was hidden inside the body of work I was busy trying to escape. 'One day I will graduate from these Christians,' I consoled myself. 'I will speak in my own voice.'
"Which is what I am doing now.
"And which (I see at last) I could not possibly have done without the Christian wisdom figures who lit my path and kept me safe and cradled my broken heart with boundless generosity and tenderness.
"It is through his friends – both living and long dead – that I have come to know and love Christ. Lucky for me, the Prince of Peace has never demanded that I swear sole allegiance to him. He seems to venerate my interspiritual heart and bless my bridge-building hands. This makes me love him all the more."