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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

A number of my friends are going through some really difficult times. And I’ve had my share of late. These thoughts came up–sorry if they sound preachy. If they do, rest assured I’m preaching mostly to myself.

They say weeping may last the night, but joy cometh in the morning. True, and one of the only reasons to wake up and try again. But they never tell you that along with joy you still have to put up with puffy eyes.

Pain often infuses the path of this life; surely God knows this, for why else would He describe Heaven as the place where He wipes away all our tears? We all like Odysseus sit sometimes by the side of the sea with salt-rimmed eyes. God haste the day we wake up on the farther side of that shore and find we have, we are, all we need. And God help us somehow see that shore even today.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the visions of Heaven we find in the Scriptures and feel (sometimes) in our hearts are simply picture-postcards: “the weather is fine; wish you were here” maybe translates loosely into “all manner of things shall be well” and “even so, come Lord Jesus!” So today we struggle to agree with John and Julian.

A friend recently noted that weeping precedes resurrection, at least in Jesus’ life. Feeling deep despair comes at the verge of new life sweeping in, taking us by surprise, and catching us all off our guard.

And so as we pick our imperfect way through the rest of this Lent, maybe we might try to embody once more some of the paradoxes of our faith–we put ashes on our heads and think of the death of the body as spring bursts forth all around us. We mourn, though not as those without hope. We give thanks in ALL circumstances. And we weep through the night, and wait, puffy-eyed, for steadfast love, and new mercies every morning.

Lift up your weary heads, friends, if only for a moment (or a few moments at a time). Look to the hills. Help comes from on high. Remember that old prayer found in many traditions, “Oh God make speed to save us, Oh Lord make haste to help us.” How refreshing, because it says essentially what so many of us cry as we wrestle with our angels in the dark: “Hey God? Hurry UP!”

Keep crying. Run to the strong tower of the Name of the Lord. Grapple, give up, and then stumble to your feet and try again, a weather eye to the hills whence help comes. And let the tears fall, for none are in vain, and God catches them all and treasures them up like diamonds against that great and glorious Day.

They say that joy cometh in the morning. Given how I need it now, I hope that it’s all true.

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Of the three temptations Jesus faced in the Wilderness, I find that only one holds any sort of appeal for me. All the kingdoms of the world? No thanks. I have trouble enough keeping my apartment in order, much less all the mess that all the kingdoms might make. Throw myself down? Try the provision of God and His angels to keep my feet from falling? As if that doesn’t describe my daily struggle anyway. No, I already hurl myself into far too many scrapes, and then cry out to God to save me from the mess I’ve made. Ask my angels; surely they could tell the countless times they bear me up on their hands.

No, it’s the first temptation that has proven my plague all of my life. Turning stones to bread? Ah, now you’ve got my full attention.

I love food. A friend recently commented on how funny it is that food delights me. And it does–sometimes a little too much, for often a celebration involves a meal, fellowship requires tea or beer, and comfort sometimes comes from the ice cream aisle. At best I hope my delight in food has something to do with God long ago preparing me for His Table, both the one I eat at on Sundays and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

Because I’m hungry. Inside of me I find deep desires that all my life I have longed, and tried in vain, to fill. Lewis’s talk of longing resonates deep inside, that search for something never there. Pierce Pettis calls it “the presence of your absence.” I could describe the course of my life as one long string of looking for bread and finding a stone.

And try as I might, my alchemical powers turn up sorely lacking in the wilderness of this world. Try as I might, I just can’t wave my wand and make the stones feed me. You remember that old Brothers Grimm story “Stone Soup:” at the end of the meal, they take the stone from the pot and move on. And of course, the stone did not make the meal, but rather the reluctant generosity of many filled that pot with good things–the stone had nothing to do with the actual meal.

And so with me. How gracious of God to see me searching out stones and reminding me that what I really hunger for is bread, and that only by the devil’s hand can I in myself turn what I seek into what I need. He reminds me as well that His Word is really what I hunger for most. That in some small way like Christ I too have food to eat–doing the will of God as I find it in my daily life.

And doing that will reminds me too that daily bread will be provided. Manna from Heaven–just enough for today (it goes wormy-bad when I get all grabby and try to store some up). I remember that my response to hunger is not to make my feast, but to trust that the one who Himself feeds the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields is deeply concerned with giving me all I really need.

Yet it remains a temptation to me to try to turn stones to bread–to assume that I know what I need, to fear I’ve made the wrong decision. To doubt–to doubt my resolve or, more to the point, to doubt God’s steady hand of provision for my daily needs.

I’m tempted to fill my emptiness with the works of my own hands. But God’s message to me, however, is to wait, to stay hungry. Lewis describes Joy as “the ultimate law of loss.” My best work in this world is to want the next–“want,” in that oldest sense–to lack, to have not and hunger for.

My heart is the stone. God’s will for me is the bread. And to pray the perfect prayer, “Thy will be done,” is to simply say I’m still hungry and I have not what I’m hungry for until He moves His hand, filling my mouth, my life, with good things.

Amen

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