Continuing my weekly post about my Lenten Meditation.
I am particularly thankful, then, when I come to verse 35: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” In the midst of demands on his time and energy, Jesus took the time to find a quiet place, a “deserted place,” and there found renewal and refreshment.
C. K. Robertson (Tuesday, Feb 28)
This is something I have been struggling with off and on lately. While I an fortunate enough to be able to go about my days fairly leisurely, with time to sit and watch the birds or investigate hidden pathways around the campus, my brain is always spinning. It’s frustrating at times, exiting at times, enervating at times, and anxiety-making at times. And, even when I feel like I can control it a little, I still instinctively know it’s not a good thing. I’ve been trying to incorporate more moments of genuine quiet, where I stop paying attention to my brain and instead pay full attention to my breathing, the warmth of the sun, the sounds of the birds. Or, more likely, the sound of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” playing through my sound-cancelling headphones.
Jesus moved without hesitation, even though the situation seemed hopeless. As the Body of Christ in the world today, charged with carrying on his healing work, what will we choose?
Margaret Trezevant (Wednesday, Feb 29)
I would like to believe that, even faced with hopelessness, I would continue to fight the good fight. But I know how hopelessness feels and how difficult it can be to overcome. I usually allow myself a fixed amount of time to wallow in self-pity and then I start making plans to do something — even something small.
In fact, small somethings are often the most important thing you can do. Lots of small somethings work together to create something greater than just the sum of its parts. Jesus didn’t set out to cure all lepers and leprosy. He focused his attentions of the sick and injured he came into contact with. And he didn’t do it as a grand cause with great fanfare, but as an act of love toward each individual. Each healing was personal. It was small (in the grand scheme of heavenly acts). It was intimate and the full embodiment of kindness.
These mobile hospice workers provide basic first aid, binding up wounds, guiding cups of water to the lips of God’s children with little time left on earth, holding and hugging those ravaged by the scourge of disease and isolation. In the name of Christ, they are making yokes easy and burdens light, and bringing rest for the souls of those soon departed.
Brian Sellers-Petersen (Thursday, March 1)
Compassion is a word that gets tossed around quite a bit, but I don’t know if it’s always being used correctly. If you go to Dictionary.com, you’ll see their definition, the source of the word, the synonyms and antonyms.
noun1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.Synonyms
1. commiseration, mercy, tenderness, heart, clemency. See sympathy.
1. mercilessness, indifference.
Nowhere in that do I see anything at all relating to judgments issued by the person offering compassion, or any conditions placed on the behavior of the person receiving compassion. I suppose the term “misfortune” could be contested as a kind of qualifier for compassion. I suppose much of what befalls people could be prevented by them making different choices in their lives. But is that what Jesus taught us? To hold people responsible for all their choices and only offer mercy to those who made the right choices and still found themselves in times of trouble?
Or did he teach compassion for ALL, even the sinners?
It’s easy to feel compassion for people we love. It hurts us to see our loved ones in pain. It can oftentimes be difficult to feel true compassion for the suffering of the people we dislike or disagree with. Strangely, I find that when I try to understand their motivations, even while I continue to disagree with them, I am more likely to feel empathy for them, sometimes quite strongly. It helps when I can feel at least some basic human connection with the person. Even people who have different opinions that I do have fears, pain, heart-break, sadness, etc.
It is a bit harder to feel compassion for people who have actually hurt me. It is difficult to separate the hurt and bad feelings from their humanity. I think part of it is a fear that if I begin to feel empathy for them, I will not be honoring the boundary I have placed between them and me to protect from the hurt. And, frankly, sometimes I wish they would hurt as much as they’ve hurt me. With a bit of work, though, I can find a tiny bit of compassion for people I have no interest in being friendly with, and who I may have forgiven, but have not reconciled with. But this is the area that I still need to work on, clearly.
Praying for the sick—often associated with laying on of hands, anointing with oil, singing psalms and hymns—and confession and forgiveness are all practices that encourage the healing process.
Christine Sine (Friday, March 2)
No matter what belief system you follow, there is no denying the mind/body/spirit connection. Depression often accompanies long-term illnesses. And illness often accompanies depression. While I am not certain about actual healing miracles performed by the laying on of hands, I can see how human connection and touch can go a long way toward boosting the healing process. And there is no doubt that just knowing someone is thinking kind thoughts or sending up a prayer for you helps when you’re feeling low, whether because of depression or illness. Care packages aren’t just about the physical contents of the box, but also about the warm feelings that come along for free.
Creation holds so many gifts for our healing; we are graced when we turn toward it.
Becca Stevens (Saturday, March 3)
Well, I think anyone reading this blog already knows what I believe in terms of the healing power of nature. Science has also shown that bacteria in the soil can improve mood and may make you smarter, and just by looking out the window at nature can help sick people heal faster. If you are at all in doubt about the healing benefits of nature, check out Richard Louv’s books and website, and he’ll set you on the right path (in the woods).
As human beings, our instinct is to run away from danger in order to survive. Setting our minds on divine things means we must go against that instinct.
Eric H. F. Law (Sunday, March 4)
What is meant by “divine things?” Certainly, Heaven and the wishes of the divine. But what are those? When I think of what is divine, I think of basic human needs of love. Love for others, love for creation, love for ourselves. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the worldly goals of achievement and deadlines and stresses of paying mortgages and getting our cars fixed. And all of those are important. But in the end, none of them are nearly as important as the love we create in the world. And, sometimes, that love is painful. People we love get sick, even die. It’s unpleasant to think about, and most of the time, we’d rather focus on something we can control — meeting a deadline — than considering how we show our love to the people closest to us. But, without fail, when I have sent a message or taken a few minutes to call a dear friend “just because” it has always been more worthwhile than any project I had been stressing over.
Few people have experienced the cost of discipleship as greatly as this priest, but as we each navigate this season with our own needs for healing, imagine your experience of brokenness as an occasion for God’s healing power to be revealed.
Jay Sidebotham (Monday, March 5)
I read a fantastic blog just this morning by Courtney Stoker, entitled What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and other lies. In it, she explains that the expression is not at all accurate, and that what harms you does lasting harm that cannot be undone, although it can be overcome. It generally does not make you stronger. In fact, true suffering can leave the victim broken in ways that can never be repaired fully. And that suffering for the sake of suffering is an affront to those who have no real choice in the matter.
But people who have suffered can decide how to use their experiences in their lives. While I would wish that no one ever suffered harm, and everyone was able to live a healthy and happy life without fear or hurt, that is highly unlikely. Because, as humans, we are prone to hurting other people, even when we wish not to.
I once told a friend that I believed the real test of growing older was learning how to live with regret and unhappy memories. I also believe that a healthy dose of self-reflection around the pains of living can help make us more empathetic to the suffering of others. While I don’t believe it is necessary for empathy, suffering can certainly offer a good opportunity to hone it.