I really don’t have time to write today. But I must. I feel compelled to write. A different place than I was a few days ago when I didn’t want to write, but forced myself to sit down at the keyboard and type out a brief poem.
I feel compelled today because I am grieving. Grieving over the reaction to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The celebrating in the streets. The Facebook pictures of Bin Laden. The comments on twitter.
I’m grieving because, celebrating the death of one created by God–regardless of what we think of that person’s life–doesn’t seem like the right response. Ever. I know he orchestrated the deaths of many, including the attacks on 9/11/2001 and gloated with his despise of Americans. I know that he is credited as the leader of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization. I know he plotted the killing of friends and family members of many.
I get the knee-jerk reaction. Of “finally.” And, “what a relief.” But, celebrating death by public gathering, flag-waving, and shouting in the streets is beyond my understanding.
I find myself searching God for an answer. A proper response. I turn inward. I look upward. I seek God’s face in silence. You know the righteous. You are the judge of all. Forgive us our transgressions.
The response I sense in those quiet moments with God are these. Just love. Love deeply. Leave the rest to Me.
The alarm sounds and I reach over to find my husband still sleeping. “Wake up, you leave today. . . I miss you already.” We linger, holding that one last hug before we set the day in motion. I pray, “God, cover him as he travels this week,” and I rest in his arms another minute.
We stumble around in the morning light. Our usual morning routine disrupted by this early morning flight. Two showers. Breakfast. Last minute packing. Snacks. Passport. Hanging clothes. Book. We are ungraceful and the clock says it is time to leave–well past the time to leave. Forgotten items send us scurrying. And the peaceful moments we savored just before we slid out of bed become a distant memory.
We head out the door later than planned. And rain–torrential–slows our pace further. Traffic. Brake lights. A bumper-to-bumper parade going nowhere. I note that we missed every light. Why is it when I’m late that the lights are all red? And why not bring up more negative things to pile on to the morning stress. . .
Why is it that, when things are what they are–things I can’t change–I make them worse? I thrive on the negative and create more stress. Instead of savoring the last hour I get to spend with my loving husband, I squander it with my ugly side. Why don’t I just shrug things off and laugh about them? And then I think:
“All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all.” –Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness.
This morning I haven’t earned them all, that’s for sure. I’m grateful I don’t have to. And, I’m certain the way I’m behaving isn’t what Bonar was talking about with respect to the things that make Christ precious and dear to the Father. I imagine God, in a parental stance, arms folded, saying those things parents say to children when they over react–those things I’ve said to my only children so many times.
Yet, I am loved by the Father, even when I am clothed in the ugly. In my tattered “clothes,” I feel ashamed. Deep sadness for this foolishness. Deeper sadness that I haven’t poured out Christ’s love on my husband.
I breathe in God’s grace and forgiveness. The words spill out, “I’m so sorry. I wanted to take you to the airport so that I could spend this last hour with you. . . . And now, look what I’ve done. . . . Please forgive me.” I see a glimmer of God’s grace and mercy and love trickle down on us. We travel in silence the rest of the way to the airport.
We remain wounded by the morning, but I know we will heal like we have so many times before. We say our good-byes and I-love-yous, and I slowly pull away from the curb, reminding myself that “All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me [and my husband].”
My tattered clothes remain, but the gift of the Father’s love and the promise of the cross, is transforming me one tiny thread at a time.
I walk towards the communion table. I step before the basket of bread and the cup of wine. A time to remember. A time for renewal. Christ meets me here. I breathe him in.
But, again, the bread is the hard-crust-too-large-for-one-mouthful size—at least for me. I know I’m not the only one who finds this distracting. We talked about it in our book group. I smile as I remember our conversation.
This time, I am determined not to let it distract me. I pick up a piece of the bread and break it in two. The body of Christ, broken for me. I tightly clasp one half in my left hand. I dip the other in the wine. A time to remember. Forgive me. Strengthen me. Help us to be Christ’s body in the world.
I turn away from the table, the other half piece of bread still clasped in my hand. I slip it, gently, into my pocket.
I think, “I have Christ in my pocket.” I smile. I like that. But, will others think that is outrageous? I worry.
Then, I begin to think, what happens to the leftover bread? Is it thrown out? Fed to the birds? Does someone take it home and make fondue? I’m sure there must be some sacred handling of the leftovers.
I let it go. I’m sure the pastors and elders have this covered.
Later that day, I reach into my pocket. The bread! I remember. The body of Christ, broken for me.
Throughout the day, I reach into my pocket and grasp the bread—now hard as a rock. Inedible. The body of Christ, broken for me.
That night, as I get ready for bed, I open the top drawer of my night stand and tuck the bread into the corner. The body of Christ, broken for me.
And, so as I head to the communion table each week, I am no longer distracted by the super-sized pieces of bread. And, throughout the week, I remember the communion table. The body of Christ, broken for me.
I have Jesus in my pocket. But, more importantly, I remember. I remember that Christ bore the suffering on the cross for me. I remember that Christ meets me here, in the place where I am–today and every day–if I will just seek Him out.
The body of Christ, broken for me.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
How will you remember Christ today?
In the season of Lent, we journey toward the cross. Today, we know the significance of that journey and where it leads: to Christ’s death on the cross and the resurrection. In this journey we understand that God gave His son for us so that we might live fully in relationship with God–be restored us in our relationship with Him. I feel overwhelmed by that thought during this season.
But the disciples didn’t know this. As Christ moved toward the cross, his disciples only saw hints of what was to come. They did not fully understand what was about to happen would rock their world. Shake it fully.
They knew Jesus, saw the miracles, heard his message. Certainly they believed, if not by faith, then by sight. But, for them, the full meaning of the journey towards the cross could only be understood in hindsight.
I wonder how they felt once they fully understood. When Jesus prayed at the Mount of Olives, His disciples followed Him and He asked them to pray. Instead, they fell asleep. And, later, Peter disowned Jesus. They let Jesus down–because they felt tired or feared persecution. They were human.
But, imagine how they felt once Jesus revealed Himself to them after His death and resurrection. If I place myself in their shoes, I imagine that once the initial joy subsided, I would feel incredible regret. Regret that I failed Christ in what he asked of me, in His darkest moment during His time among us.
But the beauty of the story is that, despite the disciples’ failures –disciples who knew Him and followed him during his time on Earth–Christ went to the cross for them, too. The disciples knew not only a direct relationship with Christ while he walked among them, but they were the first to be restored fully to God. They received forgiveness and grace that must have felt incredibly tangible in the moment.
When I put myself in their shoes, I think of those moments when I have wronged someone I love deeply–my husband or children or parents or sibling. I replay those moments, and I think of the depth of my regret, but also how intimate those conversations of restoration and forgiveness are — the opening of hearts and the pouring out of forgiveness. Heartfelt moments–often difficult moments–like no others. The embracing of each other when the valley that separated us closes and we have that intimate moment when grace comes rushing down.
I imagine that is how the disciples must have felt. Tangible love, grace, and forgiveness from God.
That is the same love, grace, and forgiveness that Christ offers to all. I don’t know if it feels as tangible to me as it must have to the disciples, but it is the same. He is present always with that love, grace, and forgiveness. We just need to turn towards him.
So this season of Lent, as I journey to the cross, I think of how intimately the disciples knew Jesus and how He rocked their world. It reminds me just how tangible God is —if I will just enter into relationship with Him and let His grace pour down on me.