Creation, suffering and a rosary

Between February 23rd 2002 and July 2nd 2008, Ingrid Betancourt was a political prisoner.  An activist, anticorruption campaigner and a senator, Betancourt was held captive by leftist guerrillas.  Her remarkable rescue brought worldwide media attention.  As she left the plane she held in her hand a rosary and a crucifix that she had made from the same thread that her captors used to weave their gun belts.

Her rosary was still with her as she visited sacred Catholic sites and worshipped there.

In our first story God entered a chaotic cosmos and ordered the materials to bring forth life.  Enmity arose between those living creatures and they began to destroy each other .  God’s response was to un-create the world in order to re-create it, to start afresh.  Something always carries over, something that cannot be forgotten (the destructive impulse, the sense of loss);  but life comes again and multiplies and replenishes and expands.

This story of God’s creative power, his capacityr to bring forth life from chaos, reaches down to us; helping us to see in the chaos the materials for an abundant life.  Finding God in our suffering is a creative work that sometimes requires us to take the most painful details of our lives and to fashion an abundant life from them.

For me, Betancourt’s rosary is a material metaphor for the possibility of that abundance.


  1. Kendrick K says:

    I guess we all are trying to create some kind of order from the chaos in our lives, however through suffering & pain we appriciate that little bit of order we can gain.

  2. Wonderful, Aaron. Thanks for sharing this.

    It reminds me of reading “The Hiding Place” for the first time and being over-whelmed at how such radiant hope could exist in such awful conditions – and how forgiveness simply can’t die in some people’s souls.

    God continue to bless Ingrid Betancourt – and may we learn from her and others as we strive to find meaning and hope and glory in our own suffering.

  3. Refashioning the old into the new. Wonderful sentiments, Aaron.

  4. Kendrick, on reflection one of the issues I did not get into here in detail is the necessity of uncreation followed by recreation. Taking apart of the world we have created in the service of a new one is very difficult process. It reminds me of baptism; and the comparison with the flood is apt here. Baptism is an uncreation of our former lives in the service of new creation. Baptism is a celebration but it is also a form of death and sometimes (too often) that death is not merely to the old man of sin but also to relationships and a world we had previously inhabited and which had brought us some joy.

    Ray, to have an indestructible capacity for forgiveness is surely one of the greatest gifts.

  5. I had a similar notion, once, about making such a material metaphor, but I did not have her similar courage. I was camping in the Uintahs with a group which included a friend who fashions and sells malas for meditation. I collected some bullet casings and suggested we make a mala string from ’em. She hesitated, told me she felt weird about it; then I got weirded out about it, too. I would’ve never thought I was so superstitious–“just a little stitious”–

  6. I thought that the metaphor of deconstruction/reconstruction also works for those undergoing a crisis in faith. Following the deconstruction of belief that comes through existential and epistemological crises, comes a reconstruction out of the remnents of our old faith. Such as is found in the quote by Georg Christian Lichtenburg “First there is a time when we believe everything, then for a little while we believe with discrimination, then we believe nothing whatever, and then we believe everything again – and, moreover, give reasons why we believe.” That in a crisis of faith everything is deconstructed then rebuilt using the parts of the old faith and what caused the crisis in the first place.

  7. Thanks Jacob. I actually purchased Lichtenburg’s ‘Aphorisme’ recently. There is certainly something to this process which is applicable in a variety of settings and is perhaps one explanation for why the first eleven chapters of Genesis have continued to inspire people.

    Brent, your experience with that material metaphor suggests some important here that is probably for another post. The context from which material religion emerges are key to how they are invested with meaning.

  8. With both Aaron’s & Jacob’s comments,

    I wonder what elements are created through the deconstruction we experience, in the case of Baptism and the death of our old lives are there remnants or trinkets that people seek to keep as way of a reminder of there old life ? I can possible relate more to the recovery of trauma due to a crisis of faith, Much of the creation that I have experienced during and post my crisis of faith have been metaphysical, my belief structure has adjusted to reveal a much more fulfilling lifestyle. Again I’m not sure if I have created anything of substance anything physical by way of reminder of the past trauma I experienced.

  9. In speaking about these cycles I suspect that is most often at the metaphysical level that we experience them, esp. in terms of our faith. Moreover, within Mormonism I think there is distrust regarding material religion (statues, paintings, trinkets, crosses) unless it is of course legitimised. Even in those circumstances we are fairly sparse in our material religious practice. I’m not sure that objects are necessarily kept as a reminder of an old way of life because I think they take on new meanings. A convert friend, whose family are catholic, wears a crucifix. The object has been re-appropriated by her into her current form of Christianity and could certainly move with her if he she ever joined another faith. Further I know people who have left Mormonism and who have been re-baptised into their new faith in order to wash away the sins of their Mormonism. Here again these material processes serve as a mechanism of uncreation and recreation.

    I should note, however, that I was primarily thinking in terms of the metaphysical when I wrote the post.

  10. Aaron, I think you might be right, the reconstructive metaphors that are in Gensis have a particular resonance that would explain there permanence in religious traditions. Personally, I find that no matter how many times I study them that they always have new dimensions in which they can be applied and understood.

    In response to Kendrick often we need the material to help us conceptualise the metaphysical. It is the performance of the ritual of baptism, that helps to articulate the metaphysical change that we undergo. So it is through performance that the change is undertaken on a metaphysical level which is the material performance. In the context of Crisis of faith, this performance is less tangible but is often placed into a narrative or social script such as exit narratives, where one moves through a series of transitional states from child to maturity and nuanced belief. It also can be seen in the performance as described by narrative of Lichtenburg moving from belief to disbelief back to belief. Shakespeare hit upon a profound truth when he spoke of us as being actors who strut and fret our hour upon the stage, it is through the acting out and making the metaphysical material that we live and understand the reconstruction that we undergo out of deconstruction. I suspect that this partly why the endowment involves acting out the roles of our first parents.

    I find it interesting that in constructing the material, we need to reconfigure artefacts and symbols that have a history and a significance, the rosary beads were more meaningful because of the symbolic power of the medium from which it was made. Its not enough to simply construct a symbol or icon, but it also needs to have powerful associations or meaning. Which ties into the First story of God constructing out of the chaos, the apron of fig leaves of adam and eve. It has to carry through something from the previous state but in order for something to be carried through it needs an overarching narrative.

  11. As a former Catholic who only prayed the Rosary a few times growing up, I like that you are able to see the symbolism here that is more than using the beads for prayers. I worked with a very devout Catholic who prayed the Rosary on the bus on the way to work. I was LDS by that point and was most touched by her devotion and ability on a noisy bus to try to commune with God.

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