Holy Week 2020: Wednesday

Looming uncertainty. It seems eerily appropriate that we find ourselves in that same space. As I sit on my back porch writing (trying to divert my eyes from the endless news loop of the television), I find my spirit troubled. This familiar phrase is used, especially in John’s gospel to reveal the heart of Jesus on many occasions. We see it in his response to other’s grief (ch 11). We see it as he predicts his death (ch 12), and this exact phrase is used to describe the heart of Jesus as he explained to the disciples that one of them was going to betray him (ch 13). This last text is today’s lectionary reading. As I read and reread these words, I’m curiously thankful.

I’m thankful for the humanity of Jesus. There are many ways that I struggle to relate to the divinity of Christ, but I get the humanity. I get the struggle. I get the fret. I get the troubled spirit, because that is exactly where I find myself today. When the world is not as we planned it. When the changes are frightening. When you know in your troubled spirit that this is not the desired outcome. Jesus understood that feeling. I think I can safely say that we all need this message of understanding today. For many of us over thinkers, we feel terminally unique on a good day. In this global chaos, I would classify my soul as terminally troubled.

I can safely classify this season of my own faith exploration as one that is filled with questions. One of the most beautiful parts of faith for me is the journey. I have learned that life is anything but stagnant. That goes for the growth that takes place when we experience uncertainty and change in our spiritual life. There were many times in decades past that these seasons came with judgement. When I would experience a season of a “troubled spirit,” I struggled to allow my unsettled soul to just be. I fought it. I shamed myself for doubt and questions. Today, I sit in this place with a strange since of welcome.

What if having a troubled spirit is but an invitation for change? Jesus gave us a model for this life. Not once, when presented with a season of soul stirring, did Jesus quit. He never walked away from the discomfort. He did not change the situation so that he felt more at ease. I don’t recall a time when he chose to drink it away or rage at people that did it wrong. And at the same time, he didn’t always have the answers. Even when he knew the path forward, he was honest about the pain that the truth would bring. One of my favorites of these moments takes place tomorrow night. Let’s just say that I get the garden. I get it in the deep places of my soul.

When I think about authenticity, this is my model. That’s what Wednesday is about for me this year. I will not ignore the uncertainty. I will not deny the unrest. I will allow my spirit to understand and accept discomfort and pain and grief. I will listen with a desire to learn from the inner voice that is speaking to me in this season. Rather than resisting or fighting the feelings that are sometimes easy to push away, I will invite the wisdom of revelation to teach me in the unease. For the record, I think this is like praying for patience. By being willing to lean in, we have to be willing to experience the hard. But here is the thing. We are ALREADY in the hard. What if by opening ourselves to learn from it, we are only admitting that we can grow and thrive because of these moments, not in spite of them?

May we shift our posture as we enter the weight of the week.

May this be more than a hump day of sorts, but rather a choice to change positions.

May we prepare for the hard, because it is coming.

Advent 2019: Hope

I am a documentary nut. I love to watch them on all the streaming things. Recently, I have watched multiple accounts of the journey of patients with AIDS – both in the early days of the epidemic and the advancements in treating the disease. One of these stories was the account of program that was started in Salt Lake City’s Holy Cross Hospital.

In the mid-80s, these women of faith stood eye to eye with one of the most hope-LESS diseases of our time. With no cure and an almost certain death sentence, they loved and cared and nursed and offered grace in ways that I can almost promise none of them ever intended. It’s almost as if they were open to not-knowing…

One of the sisters, Bernie Mulick said, “It’s part of our mission as Sisters of the Holy Cross to care for those who are poor and sick and needy. We have always cared for the forgotten ones, for the underdogs. They were the railroaders and the coal miners in our earliest days in Utah. During the 1980s and 1990s, individuals with HIV and AIDS were the lepers of the time, and no one else was taking care of them.”

Another nurse, Sr. Linda Bellemore said, “Those were the years of fear about the transmission of this terminal disease resulting in alienation from family, friends and society due to their diagnosis. At the time of their lives when they most needed care and support, how could I not help? The need was obvious, and I am committed to serving people as Jesus did, especially the poor and alienated.”

Watching this film made be want to be that kind of hope dealer. These women were hope with skin. The kind of hope that stands in the face of death and pain and horrible alienation and loves. Because there was no cure. There was no medicine. There was not even a promise of acceptance and basic care. And yet the Sisters offered hope in the midst of the darkest, darkest pain. 

We don’t get to have hope without having seen pain. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to walk into the darkness. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason we need hope to begin with.

Advent matters, because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open, even in the midst of our not-knowing and darkness and longing. The weary world is still waiting in so many ways, in so many hearts, in so many places, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come. 

Advent is for the ones who know longing for that kind of hope.