Story blogs

Day 35: A new story

BY ED SLOANE | April 5, 2022
Today’s readings

For many years I was the spiritual director of a parish summer camp. I have been privileged to receive the stories of many young people as they discerned not only who they were but who God was to them in and through their stories.

Many of these stories involved searching for questions about God’s position in times of uncertainty, loss, and difficult transitions. Sometimes at the heart of these stories was the fear that they or someone they loved would be punished by God. Sometimes they feared that their actions or some aspect of their identity would create a distance between them and God.

Somewhere along the way they had internalized a theology that links suffering or frustrations with God to sin. Indeed, the author of Numbers explicitly establishes this link. After following God and Moses out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites wander the desert without the basic material resources necessary for survival. Frustrated, they cry out to God only to encounter more suffering in the form of poisonous snakes sent by God as punishment for their complaints.

As I sat before this disturbing image of God, I kept coming back to Moses to whom the Israelites turn in their frustration. God commands Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole, which will heal those who look at it. My thoughts returned to the many stories I have been privileged to receive over the years when young people have opened their hearts and lives to me.

Maybe it was a camper who shared a story with me about coming out, parental loss or family struggle, fighting with a best friend, or questions about college and big life decisions. Sometimes through tears or with a hug, I thanked them for sharing their story and reassured them that they were loved by God and by others. While these comforts may not have ended their struggles, I hoped they could see their frustrations, struggles, and uncertainties in a new light as moments of grace and holiness of genuinely seeking God. through which they could begin to tell their story in a new way – a way in which God was the source of their healing rather than the author of their pain.

For reflection:

  • Who in your life experiences pain, suffering or uncertainty?
  • How might you be called to be present to them in a special way during Lent?