Monday, March 14, 2016

F is for Follow

Leading my sons across the puddles and pools of low tide, four years and a lifetime ago.

Dear Jesus,

I love you.  You know this.  Thank you for keeping me on speaking terms with You.  We both know what set me on this weird, winding path, but only You know where it will finally take me.  I'm not even sure where I am at the moment, I just keep walking in the dark, hoping at some point the light will pierce through.

[Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.]

Loving You is easy these days; You are near, You are sheltering me, You are keeping me close until I recover.

[...Eat, for the journey is too great for you.]

Thinking beyond right now is what I find difficult.  In fact, I get super agitated when I try to imagine what happens after I recover, when my faith becomes more about movement than rest, more action than recovery; when following You looks more like it did before everything went to pieces.  My heart races just thinking about it, my whole body heats up and yells at me to run away while I still can.

[Whoever wants to be my disciple...must pick up his cross, and follow Me.]

That's just it.  It feels dangerous to follow You.  And as to the why...well, You know that, too.  Stuff happened that shouldn't have happened and I put up with it because I thought it was part of this cross-carrying, You-following.  I shared in Your sufferings; at least, understanding it that way got me through at the time.  Do you remember me on my knees, tears streaming down my face as I looked to You on the cross, asking You for the strength to endure and the patience not to retaliate?  I remember You, because You met me there and, indeed, gave me what I asked for.

But what a two-edged sword!  It got me through but also got me here: unable to work, unable to go to church, unable to read Your word or the writings of the brothers and sisters who confess You as Lord.

Can I follow You without picking up my cross again?  Because I am terrified by the thought of it.  I have set my cross down, I have turned my face away from Your suffering Self.  I have run for my life at the behest of my terrified body and mind.  And now I am in the cave with Elijah waiting for the wind and the earthquake and the fire to pass me by.


It is the books of Your ancient people that encourage me these days, those who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but don't include You among their faithful.  They call you a bastard, or "that man" for the most part; very few call you by the Name the angel gave you.  Still, it is their writings I sit with, their thoughts that have diffused the flickers of light You send my way.  I figure you are okay with it, them being relatives of You and Your blessed Mother and stepfather and all.

Elie Wiesel, with whose words I am spending most of my days, writes this:
Some of the ancient Greek philosophers, as well as some Hasidic masters, claimed to have spent their lifetimes preparing for death.  Well, the Jewish tradition, which is my own, counsels another way: We sanctify life, not death..."You shall choose life" and the living...Of course, we must accept the idea--the reality--that every man is mortal.  But Jewish law teaches us that death is not meant to guide us; it is life that will show us the way."
Rebbe Naphtali of Sopshitz, one of the first Hasidic masters (and most controversial--though as I say it I am reminded that You knew him better than I will ever know about him) wrote the following words on a similar theme, and they stopped me cold when I read them.
Life is given to man to be lived.  To mutilate life is to offend its source; to choose suffering is to reject a gift both rare and irreplaceable.

Can you, the Messiah who healed the lame and the blind, the leprous and the broken-hearted, heal me?  And even if full healing is not to be my lot, can You please shine a light on the path that leads to life, and not to death?  To blessing, and not to curse?  Can You teach me what it means to choose life and to choose You?  The two need not cancel each other out, right?  You have saved my life so many times; can you teach me how to save it now?

I trust You can.  I know You can.  And I am willing to wait here, in the cave, until You do.




A blessing for you, readers, and for me:

Breath by breath,
Stepping or stumbling,
may life and the Giver of life
Show us the Way.

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