2021 02 28 Alan Storey: Hoping against Hope
Lent is a time where we lean into the work of sacrifice. It is a deepening time during our journey in the life of faith because we are committing ourselves in a more intentional way to journey with Jesus in quiet, in release, and in taking on a pattern of life that shapes us for the remainder of our days. It is something we participate in willingly, so the way that unfolds is a way we say, “yes” to even before knowing what lies ahead. Our yes is a “yes” that must be true no matter the turns, no matter the costs.
The image on the front cover, was painted by a woman named Jan Richardson. Jan illustrated Peter Storey’s book, Listening at Golgotha. She is such a beautiful human being. Her husband died in 2013. They were collaborators in so much of life, from the stories she shares. Jan writes about the gift of being able to walk back and forth in their home sharing the process of her painting with him. After his death, she took time for herself, but once she was ready, she began to turn her energy towards creating not just art, but blessings.
There is a holiness that lives in her blessings because they were born during a journey that we know was painful and the wrestle to the words must have been so alive in her, but they rose and found their way to the surface and she used them as a means of showering others with a sense of the divine that was alive in her even during a time of darkness for her in her space of loss. It is the same with her art. I find her art inspires me in an elemental way that opens movement within my spirit.
The blessing below came from her book, Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessing for the Seasons.
Blessing that meets you in the wilderness
After the desert stillness.
After the wrestling.
After the hours and days and weeks of
emptying. After the hungering and thirsting.
After the opening and seeing and knowing.
Let this blessing be the first sweetness
that touches your lips.
The bread that falls into your arms.
The cup that welcoming hands press
Let this blessing be the road that returns to you.
Let it be the strength to carry the wilderness home.
If Jan’s life through her grief was a wilderness, her blessings demonstrate the reality that she was held along the way until the blessing of healing began to shimmer gently through. That is the journey of the Christian faith, we cannot know the beauty, the pain, the road before us, but we can know we are held in such a way that strength will rise for us to meet every turn.
Journeying with Jesus is not an easy road. We fool ourselves if we believe it to be. We are living in days where it is important for us to be awake to the reality of what it means to walk in pain with others, to sit with someone who has questions we are not the answer for, and to be in the journey with Jesus—in it.
May you be strengthened for the journey throughout these 40 days and may the wilderness be a place you find yourself coming home to again and again.
With you on the journey,
Held in the Spirit …
A couple of years ago, I was speaking at a youth retreat. After I was done preaching, I shared I would be outside at the picnic tables should anyone want to talk. I will never forget a young woman coming up to me and sharing that she had a secret she needed to share. She was dressed in black from head to toe and seemed to be hiding within the hoodie she was wearing. Her secret she told me was that she was being physically abused. She didn’t know what to do and she had been cutting her wrists, not to die, but in order that she might feel alive. She had lost the ability to feel her life she said. At least ten other young people shared their stories of pain and the reasons why they too were cutting themselves in order that they might feel alive.
The journey I went on with the youth at that retreat and the youth pastors that served them was one I never could have prepared for. It was painful, laborious, and held so utterly in response to the work of the Spirit that I was left feeling overwhelmed with a sense of certainty that holiness was in the ground. Now years later, I see that same young woman wearing pink, flowers even, and it makes me smile. She shares her story with others and has asked me to share it as well. Yet, underneath the surface of the colors she has allowed back in her life will always be the story of her pain that runs deep. She has learned to make friends with it, but it will always be there.
Trevor Hudson has shared that “everyone has a pool of tears.” There is such truth in these words. We all carry a hidden pain, insecurity, or a truth we hope for others never to know. During our first Wednesday in Lent, Alan spoke about the importance of confession. It is important to share our stories with others, to release some of the pain we carry in order that our brokenness does not become the gift we give to others. Yet, I want to challenge us all during this Lenten season to reflect on the holiness of sharing life together. Life together is a precious gift.
In order to be a confessing community, we have to understand the holiness that exists when someone shares with us. Are we a people who can hold a story and not breathe it into the wind for all the others in our circle to hear? Are we a people who witness the pain in others and hold it gently recognizing the fragility of their reality and the fragility of trust? Are we willing to be available? I must confess that I have always loved young people, but in small numbers. Had I known twenty of them would come to me that night, there is a strong possibility I might not have availed myself. Yet, I was blessed in a way that changed me that night. I can still catch the holiness of it in my breath.
When I think of confession, listening, and being real, those young people were heroes. They were brave enough to trust in the word of God I spoke of that night and brave enough to share their particular pool of tears. They were brave enough to do the hard work it takes to begin the journey towards wholeness, healing, and life. Let us in our life together be people that help each other along on the journey by listening, confessing, and holding each other in the light and love of the Spirit of God.
With you on the journey, Michelle