I realized that it’s only fitting that I started blogging again yesterday during Lent, because as history serves, Lent has lent (I just can’t help with the puns…you know Easter is on April Fools, right?!) a good portion of inspiration.
So I’ve compiled, just in time for Good Friday, a dose of Lenten posts for your contemplative reading.
I pray that this season has been meaningful and full for you and that you find so much comfort and hope and peace even at the sight of our wounded savior on the cross. May we linger on that cross and the grave with renewed passion and waiting and expectation of the hope to come on Easter Sunday. Amen.
But I did. And the journey forth from that point has been anything but smooth.
In March I was offered a very good tenure-track job at an elite Christian institution–a dream job on paper–but one I ended up turning down because the social services in the Midwest couldn’t accommodate my daughter with special needs, there’d be no job for my husband there, and I couldn’t imagine leaving behind my church ministry for a full time academic job. Then in the following months as we began to look for houses in New Jersey, we lost a bid on a particularly promising house. When our offer was finally accepted on another, the negotiation proved so arduous that the deal looked to be off any second. Even now as we are poised to close on the house, the date has been so far shifted back due to repairs that we find ourselves with a month and a half gap in housing, with a special needs baby and a slew of nurses in tow!
As it looked less and less likely that we’d settle with the sellers on this house, my usually dogged, meticulous husband became strangely calm. At first I mistook his stoicism for resignation, fearing him despondent, assuming he’d given up. Perhaps he had given up in a way, but as he described his feelings I realized he’d found solace in either outcome–he wasn’t complacent but rather his perspective had been remarkably altered by our circumstances. He’d given up on the ideal of the house, but in so doing he’d found a certain measure of security.
A week or so later, knowing we had very little money for his birthday presents this year, I looked at him with tears in my eyes and told him that I’d discovered that a house would be lovely, but he and Lucia are my real home.
Facing a few months of being a nomad is relatively moderate when we are seeing some of the greatest refugee crises unfold around the world. In fact, just a few prior, I preached on the trite act of tidying up amidst such forced evacuations. But I also have rather wanted to shake God for so dramatically “answering” my prayer these past few months. What do you want me to learn here, Lord, I find myself puzzling. Why must it all be such a struggle, I wonder, exasperated.
And then I wonder how I would have arrived at these conclusions, this notion of home, without wandering a bit in the wilderness, and I realize that I, like my husband, am also dogged and obstinate. Sure, I am deeply intellectual, thought-filled, and intricate, yet, even I could not think myself through these insecurities, but rather had to ultimately feel my way to faith. In the poverty of my thoughts, my own excruciating inability to provide for myself and my family I have found, perhaps, the greatest provisions–the gifts of family that God has so graciously given. I have found in God not comfort but a depth of security that though practically confounding is deeply needed. I am learning, I think, how to struggle less and live a bit more, to hold life’s riches close to and let the rest fall away.
It’s been a fabulous weekend celebrating my husband’s 35th birthday and enjoying the company of lots of friends and the lovely spring weather in NJ. In addition to a photo from one of those lovely walks with the babe, here are some great stories and posts around the internet for your enjoyment this weekend:
“The Five Lessons of Good Friday,” a great article to ponder during Eastertide: I love the nuanced points about suffering and the proclamation that suffering does not have the last word! For my own reflections on how to live in light of Easter, see last year’s post, “Holy everything.”
On the subject of men, women, and the workplace, “The Confidence Gap,” was a lengthy, but good read about what may be holding women back.
It’s just a few days prior to his death, and he knows it’s coming along with betrayal by those closest to him, mockery, and agony. And yet he ties a towel around his waist, fills a basin with water, and stoops close to the ground and the filth and the earth to wash the disciples’ feet.
If that doesn’t fill you with awe, I don’t know what will.
In her latest book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Anne Lamott writes, “Even though I remember my pastor saying that God always makes a way out of no way, periodically something awful happens, and I think that God has met Her match–a child dies or a young father is paralyzed. Nothing can possibly make things okay again. People and grace surround the critically injured person or the family. Time passes. It’s beyond bad. It’s actually a nightmare. But people don’t bolt, and at some point the first shoot of grass breaks through the sidewalk.”
Lamott could easily have been writing a prayer of the help or thanks genre, but she’s actually describing the wow. The wow is not that bad things don’t happen, because they do. The wow is that “people don’t bolt” during the “beyond bad.”
Last night my husband and I went to hear blind human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, speak on the Princeton University campus. He told his story of working for justice in China, his famous escape to the U.S. embassy, the lesser told tale of his family’s continued persecution, and the gory details of his nephew’s beating and imprisonment following his asylum in the United States. While the reality of human rights abuses in China is rife with suffering, fear, and pain, Mr. Chen’s family, other activists in China, and many around the world haven’t given up.
Over the last few days the internet has been flooded by photos of Pope Francis washing and kissing the feet of inmates at a juvenile detention facility. The new pope’s far from perfect, and his actions might not change the world, but the images move us because they speak of what it means to regard the humanity of one another in situations that are “beyond bad.”
When you really think about it Holy Week, so artfully named, was “beyond bad.” There was really nothing good about good Friday, and there is nothing more nightmarish than the death of God.
But even in death God hasn’t met Her match. Sometimes we forget, though, that it came to that–that death was gory for Jesus, that it was pain, and the earth plunged into darkness–that simply put, we can’t have the resurrection, the wow, the shoots of grass, without the “beyond bad,” the nightmare of the crucifixion that delivers us from sin and death.
And with all that was yet to come, he went willingly to his death. Yet, before doing so he took their feet in his holy hands and scrubbed them like a servant. That’s what our savior did with some of his last moments on this earth.