Monday, April 14, 2014

Thoughts on Hunger and the Passion

Thoughts on Hunger and the Passion

This has been a harder winter season than most for my friends home and up North.  The beauty of a wiped clean world, with the quiet of snow gave way to a tremendous ache for newly shorn days of budding and growing things.  Of waking up after a long dormancy.  There has been such a hunger for Spring.  Growing up, Spring always meant the bloom
Tidal Basin Cherry Trees
of the Tidal Basin cherry trees, and the hope we'd get to see them before a typical shower would blow them all away.  My father was so fond of them, he finally planted one in our front yard, where its gentle fragility reminded all of us how fleeting the newness of things can become.  

It is in this cycle of dormancy, renewal, celebration and quiet that we begin again, the season of Easter.  This past Palm Sunday, we participated in the story of the Crucifixion, to hear the judgment and sanction of Jesus.  "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?"


When Christ utters these words on Calvary, it is a
moment of tremendous pain that is born of mighty belief.  For his thirty years, he never wavered from the path set for him.  He always knew his fate.  This is what we are told from scripture.  The bound together gospels that were chosen long before we appeared, exist collected as a record of faith, this is the story I know.  Yet, it is difficult to reconcile that for me.  To live as man, yet to be divine.  To live as one among many, to see anguish, desire, hunger, avarice, joy, need and yet to want none.  To be tempted by none.  To rise above it.  I am told he is human, battling what we battle, come to earth to experience all that it is to be human, to love and be loved with all the wealth of that experience…but to do so with a terrifying end.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This question draws me closer to the Christ that I was meant to know.  Even with all of his prescient knowledge, still there is a moment of despair.  Of extraordinary sorrow.  Of fear.  It is in this moment, before Christ pronounces his work finished, that he joins those who he has died to serve.  Here he is unalteringly, unswervingly and steadfastly human.   "Eli, Eli lema sabachthani?"  How many times have I felt the same?  Lost, abandoned, in misery and with no hope.  Locked in a terror so cold and dark that I could not feel or find my way out.  I asked for help and saw nothing.  The darkness of depression came on for me after years of living on the fringe of self-management.  Coping mechanisms that no longer worked.  Fears of failure that chased me through door after door, year after year.  The list of struggles is not even as long as those I am privileged to call friend, but they are there—the attention I sought by lying my way into sympathies, the criticism I received from a father who was angry and addicted, the resentment I felt from a mother who did not step in to the wake of abuse that followed, the continual dissolution I endured from a relationship where I was told, repeatedly, why I was not good enough, the disbelief when a God who was present would not save my sick parent, the unfamiliar disappointment of a husband whose dreams were destroyed, the subliminal edge of razor sharp grief of a child lost,  these and more are the shadows where I chose to walk, turning my back on hope and saying that it was not meant for me. 

And yet.  The pull and the call back to the comfort that God provided for me was not something I could ignore.  First it was my mother’s faith, that she followed willingly into a death that would forever separate us here, and I can still see her, the last moments of her life pleading in Malayalam, “I cannot take it.  Why?  I cannot…” her head as shiny as a new sun, covered in sweat, looking up unseeing at God, pleading for release, not understanding her pain. My anger at the loss of blessing response was immutable and resolute.  It smoldered, quietly and steadily for a calendar year only to be resolved at the insistent acknowledgement of my son when he came into the world.  He battle cried me back to life and to joy and to faith.  His call was sent straight from God willing me back to something greater than I thought I could bear, something I thought I did not have the courage to act upon—my own life.   Because he felt it too.  He felt the despair and the brokenness and he felt alone and betrayed and sad and hollow.  He endured, he did what he was told to do.  He was  spent in suffering.  He walked that path before us.  He suffered for us.  Each step was his agony.  

Passion, Christ’s passion is taken from the Greek word paschein, which means, “to suffer.”  It is counter-intuitive to our earthly vibration to the word, which connotes something consuming, fiery and sensual.  And this, I think is where we meet our faith head on.  In between the heat of our desire and the suffering of the eternal.  The crux of the meeting of our belief is this: the passion we have for the lives we live and the love we have for the God we serve. 

The doubts are many, we only have to open any paper on any day and see the stories that test our understanding of why we must endure and keep moving towards eternity.   Even now, this moment, with forgiveness on my heart, I feel unsteady, like I am not so certain that the broken can be shared. Every flaw in the design of my life, the cracks I can see where hope seeps through, I begin again to find myself in the quicksand of uncertainty.  It was on such a day, a normal day of hard, that in tearful prayer of worry where I asked why had I not been heard?  Had I not been faithful?  Was I not saying, "yes?"  There it was as plain as cotton, unbleached and unmoving: "My life is God's prayer." (Psalm 42:8 MSG).  Five life changing, shattering words.

Prayer is an act of communion with God.  And communion means community.  A chance to talk freely over my life and worries, hopes and fears. When I pray, I do it with thanksgiving and for protection against all manner of illness and sorrow, for the alleviation of burdens, for the healing of anger.   And I expect that my God does the same for me, and for you, his beloved.

Your life is God’s prayer.  And as sure as I am writing this, I know that the prayer being said is not one of pain wished, addiction continued, or abuse heaped, it is of healing given, freedom offered, and love abounding.  This passion, ours and God’s, it is met and bound in the intangible act of faith.  This is what is asked of us, to bear witness again to unspeakable torture and to not be unmoved but to act with resilience and great courage to love.  The God I know does not wish anything less.  The passion you enact is steadily bringing you into closer resolve with a great peace.  

I do not want you broken.  I do not want you hurt.  I want you whole and joyful, I want you to know that you are loved and held up.  I want you to be the miracle you were meant to be.  Let me lift you this Easter season.  Let us celebrate the fact that despite the broken, we are loved and wanted just as we are.  Let the prayer for our lives ring throughout the year, forgiveness at our back,  and the promise of renewal and reconciliation within our collected grasp.  

We are given the opportunity to begin again, to experience the sacrifice, the ferocity of love, the passion of God to bind our wounds and allow us to do the greatest work, of loving and seeing and knowing one another.  Of carrying each other through life with grace and thanksgiving.  Of allowing the time to forgive the unsteadiness of decisions past and present.  You who are struggling and burdened with the seismic shifts of your own landscape.  Give me your hand, let me help you climb to higher ground.   We are God's prayer, and with it we are in communion with him and with one another.  A community of hope.   To you who are so holy and wholly loved, Happy Easter.

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