God's Politics

While we’re still reeling from the news of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, we offer this excerpted reflection from the November 2004 issue of Sojourners magazine:

Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, my 14-year-old daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car accident. In that moment, the global grief I had been witnessing at a distance became intensely personal for me. I shared the pain of every mother everywhere—American, Afghani, Iraqi—as she struggled to bear the unbearable.

When my daughter died, she was at the beginning of her blossoming, filled with indignation against injustice, hunger for justice, and the early flames of spiritual love. I had believed that Jenny would grow up to consciously help alleviate the suffering in this world. The loss of such potential, coupled with the primal agony of missing her, threatened to destroy me.

But there was another reality just beyond the edges of my anguish. A palpable sense of holiness began to pervade the emptiness carved by my shattering. As my family and community rallied to support me in those first hours and days of my loss, filling the air with their prayers, tears, and singing, I noticed a radiance wash over my heart and the hearts of my circle of support. God was with us. And Jenny was with God. The exaltation accompanying this phenomenon confused me. The most terrible thing imaginable had happened and, while my suffering was acute, I was also being soothed and lifted by this ineffable holy joy.

For a year or more, all I could do was tentatively face the fire of my feelings, offering quiet prayers for peace on the planet and in the hearts of all who were grieving. I sat amid the wreckage of my own heart, allowing the broken fragments to re-form according to the inscrutable timetable of the Divine, relinquishing any last illusions that I had control of anything in this life.

Eventually, like so many victims of tragedy, I turned my attention to service. This was the only path that made any sense. The ordinary concerns of daily life had dissolved in the inferno of my loss. Struck by the rarified awareness that had begun to grow in me, I became intensely interested in those whose own losses had acted as a catalyst for spiritual transformation in their lives.

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Mirabai Starr, the author of translations of Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross and The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, was a certified grief counselor and an adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of New Mexico, Taos, when this article appeared.

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