A friend once asked me where God was during his turmoil. He was going through a large upheaval in his life; he couldn’t see anything beyond the obstacles he faced. He felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. “Is God even near me in all of this?” he grieved. “No.” I responded.
The legalism, judgementalism, patriarchal systems, and poor Scriptural interpretations all need to be tossed out. As we do so, we also need to guard against tossing out the proverbial baby with them. I would never presume to tell anyone how to go about this process of deconstruction, but I also don’t want us to forget all that is good and worthy of holding onto.
We sometimes forget the extremity of Jesus’ language. For Jesus, the cross is hard and cruel. It was not an easy thing to carry. For Jesus, the cross was the place of his rejection and death. It is to this place that Jesus bids us to follow. Is it any wonder, then, that the cross is hard reality in our lives? We feel it viscerally pressing against us. The cross upsets our lives. What is more, taking up our cross means we may need to walk with it for a while. This can be involve walking a difficult and sometimes lonely path. Yet despite all of this, taking up our cross is an act of radical hope.
Do you find that fear limits you from stepping boldly into the new life that Jesus calls you into? When we focus too much on that fear, or the lies it tries to tell us, we can easily get stuck in our faith. We may look at opportunities before us and believe that we are not ready or able to do what God asks. The truth is God’s grace often shines most brightly through the imperfect cracks of our lives.
It would be years before I came across that reading again and the reminder of a prayer I lost the hope to pray. A prayer that God answered in a way I could never have imagined. My dear ones had not only made peace, but now laughed together and cared for one another.
A faith which fails to value the struggle and the wrestling seems insufficient and even irrelevant to our everyday lives where we battle cancer, financial insecurities, loss of loved ones, mental health struggles, and a host of other challenges. God’s people, in fact, were named as those who wrestle.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but frankly, I don’t want to. My enemy is my enemy for a reason. Either the individual has hurt me in some way, insulted me and put me down, or they represent a course of action to which I am diametrically opposed. I don’t want to love my enemy; I want to put them in their place. I want to ridicule them and reject them. I want them to experience the hurt and discouragement they have brought into my life.
Bobby Flay’s cat has more Instagram followers than I do. This fact plays havoc on my self-esteem. As someone who battles the constant torment of comparison, the fact that a celebrity feline makes a bigger splash in people’s lives speaks only to my own self-judgement; I can’t help but condemn myself.
Molly LaCroix writes: The (often young) wounded parts of you are the ones who believe things like, “I’m unlovable,” or “I’m not good enough.” They think it’s their fault bad things happened, that they are defective. Until their wounds heal, you will struggle with fully accepting God’s gracious, unconditional love.
Henri Nouwen is one of the authors I read a lot from. His words plumb the depths of the spiritual life in profound ways. So, when I started dreaming of my parish's Lenten program for 2022, I knew that I wanted to structure it around the works of Henri Nouwen.