Thursday, April 14, 2011
Living the Story #32, Lent 2011
"If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me." John 8 : 42
Jesus is no stranger. He is no aloof god who is unfamiliar with our life. One of the beauties of the Christian story is the incarnation. Christ came to live with us as one of us in order to "be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses."
If you're following this blog everyday for Lent, you'll notice, I missed another day. I blame this on busy-ness but also a debilitating pain I am experiencing right now. Since I was about 25, I have, about twice or three times a year, a very painful flare up of gout, which is a type of arthritis affecting the joints in the feet, ankles and sometimes knees. This is affected somewhat by weight and genetics. It's a little embarrassing (I have to walk with a cane if I can walk at all), it gets tiresome to explain and it just plain hurts. Right now, it feels like a spike is sticking into the joint between my right big toe and the rest of my foot. The pain doesn't let up if you get off of your foot. It just hurts and when it's happening, managing the pain is all I can think about.
Today is the last day for a group study/experience that I am a part of called Steps of Justice. The 30 day guide asks us to put ourselves through a few days of discomfort in order to feel what some of the poor and suffering feel around the world related to several issues of injustice. We've gone a day without water, without the ability to purchase things, without food, without a shower and without shoes. All this to fuel our ability to pray for those who do not have these comforts.
From both the pain I am experiencing and the Steps of Justice exercises we've done, I know ever more clearly that our society and life is geared to reward the healthy and the wealthy. Poverty, lack and pain does so much more than limit your options, it steals your focus and ability to deal with the day. If you are in pain, if you are thirsty, if you are hungry, if you can't easily get around, get to the bathroom and have limited access, it drains your energy to deal with life the way that healthy people can.
Quite a few years ago, I read the book "City of Joy" by Dominique Lapierre. In it is described the life of a poor family in India. What struck me is the description of how difficult it was to get to a place to use a toilet or "take care of the body's needs" as the book so delicately puts it. Just this one thing steals quite a bit of the day. How easy it is for most of us to just walk into a nice, clean, available toilet. Just this one thing makes us rich beyond compare to most of the world.
Historically contributed to several sources is the saying "Be kind, everyone you know is facing a hard battle." It's so true.
Jesus came not just to deliver a message, he came to walk with us, to know us and feel what we feel. Every step Jesus took on earth was a step of justice. He cried tears of sadness, he knew pain like no other, he was weak and thirsty and hungry and lonely and grieving. He even knows what it feels like to have a spike through his foot.
Compassion for all our poverty, pain and weakness is what drove him to the cross. The joy of the kingdom come, the relief of suffering and destruction of evil through his love and the community of his family the church is what made him able to endure it.
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Heb 4: 14 - 16
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Cor 4: 16 - 18
"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Heb 12:1 - 3