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I’m not ready yet. For Easter, that is. Or maybe I’m too ready. It’s hard to tell. Certainly, Lent has been a rocky path, fraught with revelation and woe. I feel as though my body has been washed up on the shore of Holy Thursday, and I haven’t a clue what to do next. Wash some feet? Build a radio out of coconuts?

Lent is not supposed to be a time of despair. It is, in fact, a glorious time, in which we celebrate what Jesus was willing to do for us: He suffered; we got life eternal. Quite possibly the best deal in history, and we didn’t have to lift a finger. Still, it’s hard not to feel mixed emotions.

Why are we placed in this state of contradiction?
The daffodils say spring but the sky says winter.
We are dying. We are never dying at all.
We are rising like bread; we are falling like rain.
Somehow Good Friday amends into Easter —
a miracle, clearly, but sudden. So sudden.
Do we sit at the tomb till we’re ready? Or
do we wonder at apparitions? Run tell the gospel
or wait for a Pentecost just beyond our line of sight?
Salvation comes at a gallop. I mouth prayers
and hope for the courage to jump on.

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The spring right before the road.

The spring right before the road.

Holy Week.  At the risk of sending a few people off the deep end, I’m going to publically admit that I am not terrifically fond of Holy Week.  Yes, it is the time we observe and, dare I say, celebrate the sacrifice that was made for us.  It is a time of reflection.

But it is also a time that is insanely busy.  First you have Maundy Thursday service. Then Good Friday vigil.  Then all the hoopla that is Easter (both church and family).  For us that’s brunch with my dad, dinner at my sister-in-law’s, church Sunday morning, and then dinner at my sister’s.  We’re missing another dinner because . . . . seriously?  Did you see our schedule?

This year, my family let some of it slide and because we scheduled a trip out of town without realizing that Spring Break and Holy Week coincided.  We got back just in time for brunch.

Fern alongside the road.

Fern alongside the road.

This means that while everyone else was at church and dying eggs, I was at the lake. The boys were doing boy things and I was following a feed plot road.  In this part of Missouri, spring is making an appearance.  The land is still a little grim looking, all grey and brown, but there are also signs of growth, signs of hope.

One of the places that I connect most deeply with God outdoors. It’s easier when I’m alone and the past few days gave me some time to both wander and wonder.

I know, I know. It means I missed time that could have been spent in group worship.  And we missed a dinner.  But I also got to connect with God and having done that I can say it was truly worth it. His message?

Breathe. Just take a moment, stand still, and breathe.

It isn’t a message I would have received in worship or with family but it was definitely a message that I needed to hear.

–SueBE

“It’s no big deal,” my sister says on the phone of her recent hysterectomy. “Of all my surgeries, it was the easiest.” Of course, this is a woman who has had surgery on her eyeball. And endured a double mastectomy. It is not surprising to me that she is stoic. She knows the way of pain.

The way of pain is also Jesus’ way. Imagine, if you will, being tortured for hours by Roman guards, kept up all night, having a crown of thorns digging inexorably into your head…then being loaded up with a wooden crucifix you can barely lift and having to drag it to your own execution site. All this before getting nailed to said cross and dying of exsanguination or collapsed lungs or shock or all three. And yet the gospel-writers never include anything about Jesus hollering curses or demanding morphine or even venting slightly with a few cross words (pun intended). Jesus takes on the worst physical pain — and the pain of all the sins of the world — and still finds time to take care of his mother, forgive a thief and absolve his murderers. Now that is something.

Pain is lonely. It cuts a person off from others. There is no “sharing” pain; each person’s pain is unique. When I broke my ankle many years ago, I felt pretty bad. Then a friend of mine related the story of how she broke her ankle. Just hearing the story made me know that what I was experiencing was, frankly, laughable.

Pain is dehumanizing, reducing most of us to our worst selves. When an animal is in pain, it may hide. If confronted, it will bite. We humans do this too, in our own way. Neither strategy lessens the pain, but the kind of thinking that goes along with pain is seldom rational.

Pain has become something of a dirty word in this country. We will go to great lengths to extinguish it with pills, shots and other tinctures, both of the legal and illegal variety. No one wants to walk through pain. But pain is also salvific: It is perhaps our only means of intersecting our life experience with that of Christ. I will never be able to multiply loaves and fishes, but I can certainly understand how it feels to hurt.

Holy Week is coming up next week, a week wherein we remember Jesus’ suffering and his triumph over death. It seems an opportune time to reflect on the pain in our lives. We all experience pain, physical, mental or spiritual. But what we do with that pain matters. Non-Catholics tease Catholics over the use of the phrase, “Give it up to God.” We use it a lot, for everything from small deprivations to devastating losses. But what that phrase means is this: With this experience, I am touching, in the tiniest way, the way of the cross and the way of Christ. This provides an opportunity for something special — to choose Jesus’ response of understanding, acceptance and sanctification or to allow myself to be diminished.

The way of pain is not the easy way. It is not something to strive for. But when it is thrust upon us, as it inevitably is, it is a place of possibility. And in this place, we are at one with God.

 

 

Troubles swirl around me —
mine, theirs, ours.
With so much turmoil,
I find myself
dwelling on the agony,
wallowing in the misery
around me.
Help me turn my eyes
to the bare cross
to the empty tomb,
to the Mercy
with which You
have gifted each of us,
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Amen


		

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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