SPidge Tales

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Purgatory (Final Part)

Purgatory is not, in its most essential, a place that you go when you die if you are not quite ready for Heaven. That is a manifestation of purgatory, but not its essence. Just as when Christ speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven as not being something distant and far away, but something that we can begin experiencing on Earth when we love and follow Him, purgatory is also something we experience. Purgatory on earth is that Dark Night of the Soul, it is that period where we don’t know why things have happened the way they have, and we experience that unrest and uneasiness over the uncertainty we face.

I went to a speaker back in the spring and he hit upon this in his talk on the different stages people go through. Our lives parallel the basic biblical narrative. In this narrative, we begin with happiness in the garden with God, before the Fall, and the history of the Jewish people as embodiment of the search for reunion with God, before final reunion with God through Christ. We begin life as children, and in a family. As we reach teenage years and adolescence, we start to feel not as comfortable at home and desire to branch out on our own, discover ourselves, and search for that person who can be our match, our companion, and of whom we can start a family with and finally feel as if we are at home again. For many people nowadays, this period can stretch into the 30’s and 40’s, and can be their purgatory. For others, they find that special person rather quickly, and get settled into their family life, and their purgatory comes later. It could come through struggles with their children, having a rebellious child, or having a child with special needs. The point: everyone must go through a trying period in his life in order to see who he truly is.

A story this speaker told to illustrate his point was of this married couple, who had the perfect life, raised their children, settled into retirement and a nice inheritance. Instead of living their twilight years relaxing and playing with the grandkids, this couple decides to sell everything and move to Africa to be missionaries, and live a life filled with struggle and hardship. They chose to go through purgatory at the end. And, what if they had chosen to take the easy route? Something would have come up, maybe cancer, who knows. But, something always comes up, we hardly ever know why, but it is necessary to go through struggles and suffering learn the true meaning of love, friendship and life.

Do I agree with everything I’ve heard, from this speaker, from Boethius, Antoine de Saint Exupery, et al? I don’t know. But I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and I have hope that all will work for the good in the end. I guess we can compare our lives now to back when we were in the womb. If someone had showed us back in utero all the sufferings we would go through, and the heartbreaks we would face, and then gave us a choice of whether to stay in the comfort zone of the womb, or go through the birth pangs of entering the world and suffering, we might say no. But, ask us now, looking back, if it was worth it to go through everything, I think we would say yes. We may have suffered, but we are wiser for it.


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Shoko Nakagawa holds up a copy of her book at a signing ceremony in Tokyo on Sunday.
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11:12 AM  

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