Holy Week 2020: Saturday

I almost did not write today. There is a huge part of Saturday that is about the silence. The darkness needs to sink in. We need to have no answers. That needs to be the journey of the day. However, my friends, this particular season in our world seems like a never-ending Saturday of Holy Week, so I think we need to tune in today. We need to set our intention on what could, and can, and may be, when we chose to look for a new resurrection.

I have a bit of confession to make. This lenten season has been a train wreck of sorts in my spiritual journey. The momentum has been building for years, but the impact occurred in a very real way when I begin to step into my annual pilgrimage with the added invitation to reexamine my priorities in light of a global pandemic. In some bizarre and mysterious way, my soul needed permission to dig. I needed the ability to take off the edit button of my normal “routine” approach to faith. There is nothing like the feelings of grief and anger and loss and the aching of a stoppage of life to allow us to look long and hard at the path of connection.

I have allowed myself to say things like does this matter? Can I really connect with this? Is there beauty in this truth? Am I afraid to look at this one aspect of this story because if I do then it all unravels? Yes. The answers to these questions are all ‘yes’. And I have processed and written about this more in the past 3 weeks than I ever have in my life. This has been a season of watching the waves of awareness and questions come over me and go out with the tide of grief and doubt. This forced season of social distancing has refused to let me run from my heart and thoughts. And this is freeing me to surrender.

I have spent the last few weeks prioritizing my questions. One of my most important questions has been, “Who are my teachers?” I have let go of the need to have teachers give me answers. I have based so much of my understanding of the Divine on a regurgitation of other teacher’s favorite foods. This system has failed me in the quiet of my heart, because when I reach the moments of absolute hunger, what other people order as a main course will never satisfy my soul. I must be brave enough to seek the beauty of the feast for myself. Without the willingness to seek out and approach connection without the baggage of shame and should’s, I have no connection to the work of my growth. There is no way of placing God in a box. Actually, I have finally admitted that there is no box. And that is wonderfully and terrifyingly freeing.

I find myself on this Saturday sitting in the waiting. And while resurrection will look very different this Easter, I am thankful. There is nothing about my journey that can be divorced from the promise of new life. Even on the days when I don’t feel new. Even on the days when the story of hope seems so distant that it hurts. What I KNOW, really know, is that out of great pain comes great growth. That is the comfort of this long season of Saturdays.

I discovered a new Podcast last night that was a gift. A warm virtual hug for someone that wants no one to touch her in everyday life and yet now misses the physical connection of humanity. For those that need a soothing voice of meditation and calm today, I highly recommend Turning to the Mystics. I’ll close with a thought that is paraphrased from the Holy Week Mediation:

This pandemic has the ability to recalibrate our spiritual priorities and assumptions and rebirth a more generous clarity.  -James Finley

Friends, may we seek the light of tomorrow with all of our being.

May we know that hope does not always come in a neat and clean package.

May we look beyond the expected path for the miracle of resurrection.

Holy Week 2020: Maundy Thursday

I have done the work of explaining and giving words to the traditional aspects of this day in previous posts, so for today, I am going to draw near to my favorite, but less discussed aspect of the day. After the meal. After the bread and wine. After the foot washing. That is when my heart for Jesus connection comes alive.

I am wired to be connected. But deep connection with humans has always been a very tough reality for me. I want friendship. I want to know and be known. But these things require a level of vulnerability that I struggle to embody. I have done enough internal work to answer the ‘why’s’ of this, and yet it still does not make it any easier to apply. As much as I love the table, and I REALLY love the table, that communal act is not where my heart is drawn today. It’s the garden.

After Jesus and the disciples left the room, they went to the garden. This space is called the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethesmene. I have been to this place. I can honestly say that the experience of standing in that space, filled with ancient olive tress, as I looked over the old city of Jerusalem is one the most precious moments of my time in the Holy Land. That day was a quiet quest. It was an emotional connection to a moment that transformed my experience with this day.

There, deep into the night, Jesus went with those that were closest to him to experience his last moments of freedom. As a night owl, I get this need to simultaneously disconnect and reconnect in the darkness of night. I understand the need to take the few, the ones that I really trust to sit (or sleep) alongside me as I try to bring some clarity to the struggles of life and death. I don’t see a day (notice that I have given up saying ‘I won’t ever’ do something) when I would wash my friend’s feet after dinner. But, I can absolutely relate to the need to take a late night walk to one my favorite quiet spots. To go to a place where I can see the city, but be outside the chaos. To try to explain to my people what is going on in my soul and yet know that some cannot understand, some will go to sleep and some will deny me. All of these things happen in the garden. The garden is my jam. Not because I am a sick and twisted person (well, I guess I am) but I am also a person that needs honestly. And there is no more honest and desperate and authentic moment in all of scripture to me than the encounters that night in the garden. Those moments are as real as they get.

Tonight, there will be no communal meals. Churches are not meeting, large groups will not be breaking bread and pouring wine as communities. This is bizarre season. But, can I tell you what you will find if you go looking? The garden. The garden will be in your closet, bathroom, kitchen or backyard. For me, it is going to be a night of darkness (maybe a small fire if I can make it happen), the sound of the birds and lizards from my back porch. I am going to read the stories of that night. I’ll start around the table, but my heart will be in the garden. Specifically the prayer that Jesus vulnerably lifted from a place of questioning and pain. Those words are the heart of John’s gospel for me. That’s the Jesus that I can get behind. I will allow the darkness and the uncertainty to linger. I will meditate on the moment when they came to arrest him. There in the garden, in his sacred space, he was betrayed and taken into custody. This is the night that things changed.

It feels very strange to be on this journey from a place of solitude this year, but I really believe this is exactly what I needed. I have explored and questioned and allowed myself to feel this story in new ways because of the chaos of the world. I am sitting in the solitude that I’m not sure I have ever noticed before. In some divine way, I believe this is the exact Holy Week that my soul needed and didn’t know to ask for.

May you find a piece of today’s story that you have never encountered before and hold on tight.

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.

Holy Week 2020: Tuesday

Hard conversations. I feel like this was the central theme of the week. It matters not which account you chose to read, every single one of them tells of Jesus trying with all that he had to communicate and explain what is about to happen without giving up. But there were moments that he had to want to scream, “You idiots! What don’t you get?” When I pulled up the text for today, I read a familiar story of one of those conversations. The account is found in John chapter 12. It begins in verse 18 and is a lengthy passage. And while I tried to find the truth suggested, or at least an interesting new insight, I struggled with familiarity. Until I arrived at the last line: After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. (verse 36). That was the truth I needed this morning.

Jesus understood. Jesus was human. Jesus was like the worn out mom in the midst of quarantine. He, too, need to get away from the people and hide. Because being a coordinator of chaos is a heavy job. Because all the questions. Because we all have moments when we reach the end of our ability to be calm and kind and rational. We all have the moments where we just need to depart and hide.

Two nights ago, I knew in my gut that it was one of those nights. I went away for a bit (aka locked the bathroom door and prayed that no one would start bleeding or feeling). I took a break in my homebound sanctuary. But even that was not enough. After a long bath, I found myself sitting on my closet floor. The closet is inside the bathroom, inside my bedroom. I had 2 sets of door between me and the next human. I departed and hid from them. I texted a friend. I said some fu* and sh* words. I had a moment where I just needed to let the weight of the day jump the heck off my back. These moments are hard for people like me. I want to be the tough and capable type of human. I want the world to think that I have the answers and the serenity to face what may come. But the truth is, I don’t.

There is an added challenge for those of us that are holding on to sobriety in these days. It has been a while since my last drink, but please don’t think that I am not immune to the deepest desire to have some wine to wash away the day. I know that fast acting anxiety meds would work wonders for the wiggles and the need to run that I feel. These days are long. These feelings are big. The solitude is painful. And at the same time, the excessive words are maddening. One of the biggest signs of struggle in my sobriety experience has been drinking dreams. Multiple times in the last weeks I have woken up in a cold sweat because in my dream I was back at it. And for a moment it feels good. And then you wake up. You feel the misery. It is a painful way to “rest.” Actually, there is not much rest to be had in these moments. I was taught in early sobriety that sleeplessness does not kill you, but a drink can. So how do we keep moving?

I get my ass out of the bed when I wake up in that panic and I go for a long walk. I depart and hide from them. If I have learned one thing on this journey, it is that I need to work through the feels. Which I ABSOLUTELY hate. But they will kill me. They will suffocate me in the name of shame and resentment and fear. They will paralyze me from breathing. I have to get away from the voices that are filling my mind (my people, the TV) and I have to listen to my own Spirit. Some mornings, that means that I am walking around the neighborhood crying. Others, I am listening to a podcast and filling my inspiration tank with Brene’ and Glennon and Mike. And still other days, I am having an anger fit with my favorite musicians.

I feel like this week is a unique and holy moment to recognize the many ways that we are wired and called to not just read the stories but experience the journey. I am already planning some unique connection points for the days ahead. I can assure you that the other 3 humans in my house will want nothing to do with my pilgrimage, and honestly that is more than perfect. This is for me. I have spent most of my adult life preparing Holy Week for others. I don’t think I knew just how much I needed to travel this road without a to-do list.

Here’s a challenge for you. What does remembering the meal, the garden, the trial, death, Saturday and the first light of resurrection look like for you this year? Let me let you in on a secret that I’m finally embracing: there is no wrong way to do this. But, you miss a holy opportunity if you don’t.

May we depart from the ideas of should, and hide in the unique opportunities we have been given to walk this road with Jesus this week.