This post is linked up to #TellHisStory
Luke 9: 23 – 27
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”
This morning I came across a woman who had spoken words that had hurt me deeply months ago, a stranger who probably had no idea of how her words had cut deep in the midst of the grief I was carrying at the time. As the familiar ache resurfaced in seeing her, I recognized that I had never let go of the pain she had caused.
While running I went through all the feelings I had allowed to lay dormant below the surface: hurt, anger, feeling misunderstood, ridicule. And then I came home to read further in the Gospel of Luke. I read about the rich man and what stopped him from following the LORD (Luke 18 : 23): “He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go.” And I saw myself in these words, someone choosing to “hold tight” to hurt, anger, the feeling of being sidelined and ridiculed.
Then, as I read further, I saw Jesus respond to the blindness of the city of Jerusalem: “When the city came into view, he wept over it.” (Luke 19: 41). He wept for a people who were blinded from the truth and who had suffering awaiting them that they could not escape. It made me stop in my tracks, to consider what had caused the woman I saw to speak the words she did. And it opened my eyes to her perspective, her admitted struggles and her blindness to my own situation. Could I like Jesus, choose to weep for her? Weep in compassion for both her struggles and her blindness that had caused her to deflect in ridicule.
As I read further I saw Jesus take ownership of his anger at a blind generation, as he overturned the stalls in the Temple and then ownership of his wish to forego the suffering that awaited him, before turning to his Father to declare his willingness to follow his Father’s will above his own, to drink the cup of suffering awaiting him. It is then we see his Father strengthen him, to walk further into his suffering and to pray: “At once an angel was at his side strengthening him. He prayed all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.” As he lay dying on the cross, he prayed further: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they’re doing.” And finally, “Father, I place my life into your hands.”
What reading through these verses in Luke showed me is how Jesus, just like us, felt deeply, and yet rather than numb or press these feelings deep down, he owns them by expressing them, by weeping in compassion, being angry at a people who failed to see, know and feel what he did, and telling His Father to “remove this cup from me”. He is completely honest about not having the strength to walk into suffering alone and so turns to the One through whom he can do all things- our and his Heavenly Father.
What I realize is that I too often live life “shuffling or stumbling around” (Psalm 112) because I look down, rather than up to my God. Rather than leaning into Him to guide me through His Word into compassionate weeping, honest anger, the vulnerable admission of my wish to forego my “cup of suffering” and a turning toward His painful, yet freeing path for me, I lean away from Him. I lean into numbing away my true self, the true self who cannot do this life alone and cannot truly live by suppressing away my humanity.
Yes, words hurt. Yes, words anger. Yes, words push us to flee, rather than face. And yet as people of the cross, we are called to feel the hurt, feel the anger and face our humanity, before a God who has the power to release us from its hold. A God who has the strength to open our hearts to feel the pain of the other, to pray for those who persecute us and to offer them the grace and forgiveness we received while we were yet sinners. We, the fully undeserving, covered by shame, blinded people and yet He chose to freely release us into the light and powerful love of His Grace.
Father God, let me be the one who fears you, who “cherish[es] and relish[es] your commandments” and who in so doing becomes “Unfazed by rumor and gossip, Heart ready, trusting in God, Spirit unperturbed, Ever blessed, relaxed among enemies”, “lavish [ing] gifts on the poor”, showing “A generosity that goes on, and on, and on.” (Psalm 112, The Message).