Wednesday, March 9, 2011

learning to live between "don't know" and "not yet"

God’s grace for the journey always transcends the courage required to answer a call.
What seemed an end has become a beginning.

Life is journey. Lent reminds me of this. I was raised in a non-liturgical church. We celebrated Easter with a mention of Good Friday. Later, much later, I would begin an annual walk through this season of Lent. I was especially drawn to Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter. The long hours between death and resurrection. I have spent months, years even, in this territory. A bad place to live but a good place to visit. For it is the place where hope has no place to go except to faith. Dogma and doctrine will not satisfy. Just faith. Beyond emotion and feeling. Madeleine L'Engle paints a vivid picture of this place. 

Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion of heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God Himself...I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights.  It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present.  We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly.  We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.

A friend is walking the Appalachian Trail.  Again.  He may follow the same path as before. But he will not merely re-trace his steps if he keeps the eyes of his soul open. A thunderstorm will halt progress in a spot that he passed without notice on his original trek. Fellow hikers will bring new tales. Second glimpses will re-frame first impressions. The familiar will be born again. The gift will not be fame, recognition, or praise. The reward will come with each step. With humility born of asking. For strength. For daily bread. For protection. With humility born of being carried, picked up over and over again, when faith dims.The gift is the journey...not the destination. The gift is Love.

I am living in a season of personal limbo, of active waiting...solitude, long walks, meditation, prayer, discernment. A deeply personal Lenten season.  This year I am thinking of the disciples.  Like them, I typically set out with excitement, passion.  And like them, I usually had a destination in mind.  But the labyrinth that followed slowed my progress until I wound to the center and stopped.  The only way out was to re-trace my steps and re-visit all that had gone before. 

By Palm Sunday, the disciples' journey had carried them from the heights of a radical ministry to a time of terrible confusion and fear. The week that followed would close with a rip in time. Two long, terrible nights sandwiched a day of darkness.  These hours stripped each of illusion. A painful time. Just ask the crab who outgrows his hard shell and sheds it to survive. And then must survive - naked, unprotected, vulnerable - until a new shell forms. Growth demands that this cycle repeat countless times

Holy Saturday: the day between the Cross and the Empty Tomb
the longest day
all my moments between small deaths and renewal
all my fretful days and endless nights
fingers drumming
as if time is mine to command.

Storms happen. Life unfolds with serendipity. Without regard for my plans. But I know the rest of the story. The tomb that was empty that first Easter remains empty. Lent is a time of remembering. That Christ lives. That love is gift. And that Love arrives complete. Each day is an unwrapping of some never before seen facet. If I choose to look. The Good God watches as I wander in the wilderness and return, His great Love undiminished by my failings. 

I have come into port for a season. The rope is lightly coiled, in anticipation of future voyages. For now, I will steal away into the solitude. I leave you with this beautiful poem by Jennifer Woodruff.

Not only what we thought we could afford,
Not only what we have the strength to give is asked of us; 
the grace that makes us live calls for a death,
and all we are is poured onto an altar we did not design
And yet which holds us in His perfect will
And in both flames and darkness holds us still
and is the strength, the pillar, and the sign
Of all that never fails, though we are weak,
Of He who calls, and asks us to embrace our weakness, and our cross, to see His face 
and, made most strong in weakness,
He will speak.

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