By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept (Paulo Coelho)

“If pain must come, may it come quickly. Because I have a life to live, and I need to live it in the best way possible. If he has to make a choice, may he make it now. Then I will either wait for him or forget him.”

(Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept)

Saturday morning.  He wanted me to read him another story.  I stood before the bookshelf that had the fiction collection.  I thought I’d read him Battle Royale.  A split-second smirk.  Then, as they usually do, my eyes flew to the portion lined with mother’s Paulo Coelhos and my index finger stopped at the upper end of the orange By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept.  I have a vague recollection of planning of reading this a couple of years ago but I don’t pick books: books pick me.

Saturday morning.  By the River Piedra picked me.  I had more or less four hours to spare before he came.  I had scheduled a me-time with a foot spa and manicure.  (I did plan to avail of the free full body massage as well but the nail polish took extra long to dry.)  By the time my feet were done, I had finished the book.

By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept (1994) is a novel written in the voice of Pilar, a small town independent young woman, who after a decade was reunited with her childhood sweetheart.  Her friend, she discovered, had become an influential leader of a Catholic group that embraces the feminine side of God in the form of the Virgin Mary.

He was also a seminarian.

This, for sure, is the reason By the River Piedra chose me that Saturday morning: because Pilar loved a man who was going to be a priest.

Last Monday, I had an insightful lesson on the story of Abraham and how his life reflects ours.  In the beginning, there is the sadness, the search for elusive happiness.  Then, God enters into a covenant with us.  Then, obedience to His will.  Then, taking matters in your own hands.  Then, the famine.  Then, the promise comes true.  Then, the ultimate sacrifice: letting go of that very promise – that very source of your happiness.  Finally, promised land.

The priest, Father Nestor, asked us where we think we are in Abraham’s timeline.  I can honestly say, and I did, that I am in Isaac: there is nothing more I can ask for.  I have everything I’ve ever wanted.

And just when I discovered that – that this is the one love so beautiful and pure and strong it can only come from God – I have to give it up.

Unlike Pilar, who vowed to God she will fight for her love, I will not, for he doesn’t belong to me.  He belongs to God.  God merely let me borrow him for this moment because that is His promise: that I will find love.  And there is nothing else I can do than be grateful for this grace, for this undeserved gift of loving and being loved.  This is the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate offering.

I did something last night.  I asked God for a word, a name, anything, to show me what to do.  I opened the Bible.

It was Nehemiah.

Comforted by Yahweh.

And that is everything I need right now.

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