Westmont Magazine Learning to Live with Mystery
Adventurous by nature, Stacey Padrick ’88 struggles with the limitations systemic lupus imposes on her. Diagnosed with the illness in 1994, she has changed her career and her life to cope with the incurable disease.
Although it has been difficult, her experience has borne fruit. In a new book from Bethany House, “Living with Mystery: Finding God in the Midst of Unanswered Questions,” Stacey shares what she has learned.
“We think that because Jesus is the Answer, we must have all the answers — about pain, suffering, loss, disappointment,” she writes in the introduction. “However, God does not call us to a life of following answers and formulas. He calls us to a life of following Him. Rather than waiting for answers to lead us closer to God, we can better know Him here and now in the midst of our questions. God waits for us not in some distant, far-off answer down the road, but here, in the intersection of uncertainty.”
The volume provides a richness of resources for those trying to make sense of their lives. At the end of each chapter, questions for journals or small groups, inspirational quotes, Bible verses, guided meditations, and prayers allow for deeper reflection. This is a book that requires an investment of time and thought, but promises a significant return.
In each chapter, Stacey addresses a different mystery: honesty, love, brokenness, limitations, suffering, solitude and silence, desire, hope. She ends with the mystery of God’s delight and the mystery of life. She resists the temptation to offer platitudes and invites readers to share her journey and her discoveries.
“Prior to having lupus, I assumed I could accomplish basically whatever I wanted if I was willing to work hard enough,” she writes. “Now the more effort I exerted, the fiercer the illness raged. Not even my best self pep talks could muster my energy. Lupus brought my self-reliance to its knees, exposing the lie under which I had lived for so long: Though I resolutely claimed to believe that God loved me, I lived as if my works (or lack thereof) could increase or diminish the intensity of His affection. No longer self-sufficient, I had to face the truth: I had been striving to earn His approval by my accomplishments. Yet no matter how hard I strove, whatever I did seemed never quite enough to please Him. Now being human with all its limitations was all I could be.”
Stacey never intended to become a writer; she began free-lancing simply because it was a way someone with lupus could earn money. When she conceived of the idea for the book, she applied for a writing scholarship to Earlham School of Religion, a Quaker seminary in Indiana. With funding from the Elton Trueblood Academy of Applied Christianity, she spent nearly five months working on the book and learning about writing as a ministry.
“I came to value the Quaker tradition of silence in worship, as well as their concern for the poor and the practice of spiritual direction,” she notes. The book includes a chapter on silence.
Beginning in January 2002, Stacey will enroll in a three-year program in spiritual direction at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She believes God is calling her to a new life of writing, speaking, spiritual direction — and living with lupus.