Thursday, March 23, 2023

Searching for the Goodness in Goodbye

In a Mennonite community in Bolivia in 2009, women--young and old, married and single--divulged that they had been victims of sexual crimes, perpetrated over years.  The accused men were brought to trial, but whether justice was or ever will be achieved is still up for question. 

Women Talking is a powerful novel--and now movie-- inspired by this event. While the fictional account of what ensues after the crimes are discovered differs from the actual one, the book reveals truths and raises probing questions in ways that only fiction can. 

In the novel, several women gather secretly in a barn to determine their reaction to an unspeakable crime from which they and their daughters will never fully recover. Their debate to leave or stay presents difficult and heart-wrenching considerations. Staying could enable further abuse. It could keep them tied to a life where they forever will be considered lesser beings, deprived of education and the opportunity to "think." On the other hand, leaving will present serious risks to their physical survival. It will involve abandoning sons, husbands, fathers . . . . It will isolate them from the only life they have ever known. For this conservative, religious group, it even raises questions concerning their eternal existence. 

Among the many issues this book had me contemplating, the act of leaving and all that it entails resonated most with me. A conclusion I arrived at is that leaving is hard.

Even when leaving is necessary and comes as a relief, pain is often involved. For the women in this book, the status quo had turned ugly and threatening for them and their children. Still, leaving would present formidable obstacles and overwhelming uncertainties. It also would require making agonizing decisions about family and faith. 

Likewise, partings that are rife with hope and possibility—such as a young person leaving home to attend college or pursue a career—can carry with them the angst of leaving behind family, friends, and all that is familiar and comfortable. 

Women Talking was  a timely read for me. For many years I have been a United Methodist, and now United Methodists around the globe find themselves facing the decision to part. Some see this as a clear-cut and necessary decision, albeit not any easy one. For others, it raises questions about the best way to practice their faith. In both situations, it carries uncertainties and the hurt of saying goodbye to people cared about and worshiped with for years.

But parting is nothing new in the Christian faith. Indeed, Christianity seems to be one long narrative of partings and goodbyes--from those commanded by God to those brought about by humankind's own lack of obedience. While some might see this as evidence of an uncaring God, I see it as a testament to his goodness. Whether we humans are following God's commands or are suffering the consequences of our own disobedience, God continues to accompany us on our journeys, both real and metaphorical, and finds ways to use them for good. We are told in Romans  8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

As Christians, we trust God's goodness will prevail even in our hard goodbyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.