Tomorrow we begin Holy Week. We follow Jesus beginning with his entry into Jerusalem. We read about the crowds in reverence throwing down palm branches, shouting hosannas. Then comes the cleansing of the Temple, the Passover, betrayal, arrest a contrived trial, betrayal, death by crucifixion and burial.
Back in Luke 9:51 it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
I find it interesting that Luke frames Jesus’ death in Jesus’ ascension. The way to redemption, to new life is through the road of suffering and death. My friend David Ruis penned lyrics in a song that captured my heart years ago: “The way of suffering takes me to the least, down the road of suffering to the wedding feast.”
Turning our face toward suffering is counterintuitive, especially in America. We have every drug available and at our disposal to avoid pain and suffering:
Food – my current drug of choice
Over the counter drugs
We use processes, people and substances to alleviate our pain and suffering
The list above is by no means complete and most of the items on the list are not bad in and of themselves. It’s when we begin to use anything in excess or in order to avoid pain.
I find I am caught in a terrible bind these days. I use food to stop the immense feeling of powerlessness and pain I feel for the people I love. Watching my heroic stepson battle life-threatening cancer with all his strength. His wife, and the rest of our family praying and believing that God can intervene and commute this sentence. Every one of us along with friends here and around the world who are holding onto to hope beyond hope that a miracle will come any moment.
I wish I were strong and courageous enough to not use something to medicate this pain. But the truth is I’m not. So today, I will practice what my practice has been through this entire Lenten journey, surrender, relinquishment, letting go of my ability to stop pain, suffering and the road that leads eventually to the wedding feast. I will practice relinquishing self-contempt because I eased the pain with chocolate or pasta or whatever drug fills that aching place in my soul. Today I will pray for grace as I take the hand of Jesus and turn my face toward Jerusalem.
More thoughts on the wilderness journey. In the past two weeks the wilderness has felt more like an emotional white water rapids trip. The risks involved in white water rafting are caused by both environmental dangers and improper behaviors. Environmental dangers such as fallen trees, dams, rocks, and waterfalls. Improper behaviors such as inexperience and not using a guide, rafting while intoxicated and panic in dangerous situations.
There are so many environmental dangers both in the wilderness and in the white water. Finding safety as I continue this journey means training, trusting experienced guides and not panicking when thrown out of the raft. In fact when out of the raft, swimming to a calm spot behind a rock is protocol.
Last week I had a dream. In my dream I was in a large house with small children. I could see a storm, a whirlwind or tornado coming. I knew that I could not out run it. As it approached I realized the only safe place was to step into the eye of the storm, that there I would find calm and not be hurt. It was counterintuitive, I wanted to run with the children from the danger. I knew without a doubt if I stayed outside of the center the outer edges of the storm would destroy everything in its path, including me and the children. I was so afraid but as it approached I grabbed the kids and stepped into the center of the storm. It was instantly calm as the whirlwind carried us and then set us down. We were safe. Dream ends.
I have no control over the elemental dangers that come. The truth is, in this lenten season I have learned how little control I have over much at all.
In a Jan Richardson’s book, “Sacred Journeys” I read a meditation on anger and tenderness. Here is part of the reflection I sit with as the white water of anger rages in my soul:
“Anger is a woman who has learned
is not the way to peacefulness,
is not the way to strength.”
Swimming to the Rock, stepping into the Center of the storm, relinquishing control over and over, that what this Lenten journey is teaching me.
Lent, the season of relinquishment. Relinquishment, letting go, surrender all verbs, something we do. Time in the wilderness definitely calls forth action but the action I find being called forth during this season in many ways is what Jesus might have meant when he said if we wanted to follow Him we would have to pick up our cross daily. Some of the relinquishment I am being invited to:
• Giving up any sense that I can control things that are absolutely out of my control, not even sure that makes sense.
• Letting go of expectations that at one time seemed legit.
• Surrendering to the paradox of surrendering my will to God’s will but even that is not in my own power but by God’s grace.
• Abandonment of all illusions that we don’t live in a war zone
• Surrender to a dependence on and a desperation for the Spirit of God
• Letting go of people in graciousness that I really don’t “have” to be present to
• Giving up on pretenses
• Releasing my pride to accept kindness and goodness in all the ways in which they come to me
• Letting go of willfulness and embracing willingness (Thank you Richard Rohr)
• Desisting from self-contempt
• Surrender to the powerlessness of meeting other’s expectations of me
My time in this wilderness is definitely a painful call to action…
“For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.”
This last week the wild animals of fear, sadness, loss, anger, frustration, powerlessness and emotions that cannot be articulated became constant companions. Both while I was awake and even more so in my sleep. At the same time angels appeared all around me. Ministering angels that brought courage, peace, joy, strength, wisdom, faith, hope and love to me in the most unexpected and in the most obvious of places.
Somehow the care of angels brought me the ability to make peace with the wild animals. The prophetic picture of the lion lying down with the lamb comes to mind. Something in the tension of holding so many conflicting life experiences that are my reality in the here and now becomes bearable as I meditate on the biblical themes of wilderness.
I’m not sure how I will feel tomorrow, but for today, I am grateful for the care of angels…