image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay
“I’ll be with you…day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”~Matthew 28:20
TRIALS…in our broken world
Two years ago, I lost my father. While he had multiple health issues, it was mainly heart issues and chronic pulmonary disease that had him returning to and from the hospital a number of years prior to his death. For three years, every spring, I traveled home – thinking I was saying “goodbye” – only to have him bounce back.
At the time of his death though, I didn’t even know he was in the hospital. Having watched him bounce back time and again, my step-mother decided not to call this time with news about the latest hospital admittance. He passed away quietly in the hospital, alone at 5:30 am in the morning. This time, I didn’t get to say good-bye.
This past week, I lost a friend to cancer. She was in her early 50’s – slightly older than me. She was the second loss within a year from the same community of friends from my life in Chicago. The other friend died last July. Again – he was too young – in the prime of life. Both friends left behind beautiful, talented daughters in their mid-20’s. They are so young to lose a parent. My best friend in Chicago texted me recently “It’s been a shitty year” in response to these deaths. “Yes.” I replied “I know. I feel that way too.”
These are a few of my sorrows the past couple years. Sometimes I have felt alone as I navigate the grief and pain of simply living day-to-day.
But I know I’m not really alone though. Others struggle too. Many friends and family members are struggling through divorce, sadness, fatigue, depression and anxiety. And it’s not just me and my loved ones. In the news this past week, a massive tornado swept through Nashville, killing many and destroying the homes of hundreds. The Coronavirus is sweeping it’s way around the nation and our world community. Children are still separated from their parents at the border, and political violence is rapid around the world.
Collectively, as members of the one human tribe, calamity is all around us. It all can become overwhelming. For some, bearing witness to the trials of our lives today can feel very despairing. Recently, a friend of mine reached out to me “I feel like we are experiencing existential apocalyptic times. Can we talk about hope?” He is desperately seeking hope in our broken, divisive world. Where do we find it? Where do we turn?
THE WILDERNESS…of our Lenten journey
When we fully embrace the Lenten practices of this season, we become aware of the difficult travels through the wilderness that we all must make. Because here are so many things that divide us as members of the human tribe – political and religious tribalism, economic and racial inequalities, misogyny, racism, to name a few – those of us working to dismantle systems of oppression feel deeply the sufferings of others.
Adding to those divisions are the calamities that do not discriminate – illness, cancer, Coronavirus, extreme weather, hurricanes, tornadoes. No matter where we are in our lives, we can be caught up unexpectedly at any point. Whether we are rich or poor, black or white, male or female, we are ALL – as members of the human race – subjected to these forces beyond our control.
Fraught with perils and heartache as we navigate through the wilderness, we are ALL searching for hope and reassurance that we will be okay. We seek that deep-abiding joy that reminds us that we are alive and well in a troubled world.
JOY & HOPE…in time and in eternity
The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember that part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.~Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul
We are in the Lenten season – 40 days of quiet, fasting, prayer, and contemplation – preparing ourselves for the celebration the miracle of the resurrection and the promise of eternal life. In my study during this season, I am finding hope and joy in the stories that explore God’s willingness to become fully human and share in our life and struggles with us.
Recall with me that….:
- the God of our faith chose to be born of a woman.
- God wandered and traveled far from home- meeting as many of us as he could.
- God fed us when we were hungry.
- God partied with us in celebration – especially loving weddings – and kept the wine supply coming.
- God met our suffering head-on, learned compassion from our struggles and healed the ailments of our body, mind and soul.
- God was startled and challenged at times when he erred.1
- God laughed with us.
- God wept.
- God was betrayed and rejected.
- God spent time in the wilderness, for 40 days and nights, to retreat and fast. During this time he revealed his humanity – being hungry and tempted with riches and honors beyond his imagining. God also revealed his divinity – not giving into human desires and stayed on mission to bring hope, love and charity into the world.
And, finally, God came to know us and loved us so much, that he even paid the ultimate sacrifice – letting himself be crucified and physically die, in order to provide us with hope of a life outside of time. God taught us that living a holy life of faith of the eternal – that we are more than our day-to-day life and our life achievements – that all our toils and work in this world are not in vain.
So, for me, this is where we find our hope – with assurance that we can live a life in time – rich in spirit giving comfort to all who suffer and find real joy in community amidst the trials. That we can be kind to each other, lift one another up in times of struggle. To give love, show love, and be love to our friends, family members, neighbors, and to the stranger down the street.
“I’ll be with you…day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
And we can do all these things, with the promise that God walks with us in our life of time until we come to life of the eternal.
May God bless this meditation. Amen.
1 I love this story, for it shows that even God got it wrong sometimes and learned from his mistakes:
From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, “Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit.” Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, “Now she’s bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She’s driving us crazy.” Jesus refused, telling them, “I’ve got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel.” Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. “Master, help me.” He said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.” She was quick: “You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.” Jesus gave in. “Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!” Right then her daughter became well. ~Matthew 15: 21-28, the Message Bible