From Lent through Eastertide I am trying to pay attention to the places that the Risen Christ is visible in ways I have not yet fully seen. One constant in the lives of those I know and love is the presence of suffering, grief and pain. And I am watching to see how surely God is in those places, and I wait to see how.
- how is God present in the dailiness of the beloved ones who are chronically ill, who can never know from moment to moment if their bodies are going to allow them to step into the plan for the day?
- how does God come alongside the grieving ones–those who have lost someone without warning? those who have walked in the excruciating pain of doing all that medicine and current protocols can provide, only to recognize that those means are not enough to save the life of the beloved? those who have been faced with the mortality to which all flesh is heir?
- how is the Holy One a companion who bears our griefs and carries our sorrows through depression, anxiety and despair, whether those weights come from biology, trauma, circumstance or habit?
- how is the Spirit manifest and available when our sighs are too deep for words?
I am drawn again to the company of Jesus in the post-Resurrection days, this time to the fearful gathered ones in a locked room, then the next week to Thomas, who is full of doubts. I am touched by the fact that Jesus does not wait until they get themselves together, with right belief or with right feeling, but enters into the place where they find themselves and speaks and touches them right where they are. He brings peace, he shows his own woundedness, and they are glad.
I am uncovering that reality as I accompany my own company of beloved ones who suffer and/or wrestle–the Holy One appears in unlikely places for them; they report to me that there are moments of joy, moment of peace, moments of rest, even when the going is bleak and is rough. For one it was new information that brought promise; for another it was the laughter than was infectious that gathered everyone into a sacred moment. Another one was buoyed up by faithful friends who continue randomly to appear in tangible and intangible ways. The refrain of a well loved song or a just remembered line of an old poem can evoke Holy Presence; the new blooms of spring or the endless and constant ocean sing out the praises of the Creating One, and there is peace or respite for a moment.
The invitation in these stories for me is first to be like the disciples–honest about my own fears, my own doubts, my own struggles, and to let go of my need to “do it right,” whether it be grieving, aching or fighting. The transparency of these wounded ones allowed them to be receptive to the Risen Christ when he came to them; some well mannered defenses may have deprived them of that miraculous break-in of Light in their darkness.
But also I learn from Jesus that intimacy with the Holy and others can happen when I am not afraid to show my wounds and scars, even to allow them to be touched. I can hold them in such a way that they can give me and entree of Grace into the places and ways that others need a sign that there is hope and resurrection after great darkness. I am challenged and encouraged by that stance. I need courage and trust to live that way.
It helps me to know that the disciples had to live into the reality of the Resurrection, even through pain, even as i do. And the Holy One does and will appear.