The Time Has Come....Surrendering Into a More Expansive Existence
My heart's desire and delight, O God, is absolute surrender,
but I cannot perform it.
That life is impossible for me to live ...
let it be my glory to be helpless.
This Holy Week, like many of you, I am trying to remain present. My heart's deepest desire is to travel this week with Jesus, not just to stand on the side of the road and bear witness. Bearing witness has its place and its time, but this year I hear Jesus' invitation to follow not just with my eyes, but with my whole self. I hear the invitation to once again find my life in his, and his in mine.
As much as I want to do this, as much as I have the overwhelming sense that this is what Reality is asking of me, I'm not certain about it. I'm more than a bit afraid. Following Jesus means surrendering. Surrendering means letting go, and letting go means dropping into a new, unfamiliar space. And dropping into a new space means new ways of being and new ways of doing.
Do I really want to let go of my old ways of seeing, and, even more significantly, of being seen? Am I really open to learning new ways of being? Will I be able to access the skills needed for new ways of doing? Staying with what I know can look pretty good. That is, until what I know just isn't spacious enough anymore.
And the truth is, that's where I've found myself, in an existence that is just not spacious enough anymore. And, maybe, you have found yourself there, too. Perhaps the community that held you so securely now feels claustrophobic. Or, maybe the work that was joyful and satisfying seems to leave you no more room to grow. Maybe the marriage that was rich and nurturing seems to lack the spaciousness and possibility it once held.
For me, I ask the question I first posed to myself several years ago: What if I threw my life into a whole-hearted pursuit of where Reality is calling and let it shatter, as certainly it must? What if I surrendered?
I remember another time when I threw myself into something so fully I thought I would shatter. Well, three other times, actually, the deliveries of my children. And, in a way, parts of me did shatter. Though I started each delivery with a modicum of confidence--Haven't women done this since the beginning of time? I can do this--like most women, I came to a moment in which I felt completely helpless, crying out, "I can't."
Aren't all women in labor beggars, blinded by and lame with pain, crying out for mercy, uncertain whether or not they will live to see the new life that is coming through them? Women who have given birth know what it feels like to be on the brink of death, at the end of our power, in excruciating pain and completely exposed and vulnerable, physically and emotionally.
And suddenly I see that this is very surrender of Jesus. Jesus has shown me that pathway of surrender, and has lived it out through me at least three times!
He is not too holy to deny his own resistance to what surrender requires. And he does not judge himself or shame himself for his resistance. In the Garden of Gethsemane he offers himself compassion (Open Heart) by bringing that resistance into the compassionate light of the Father. And he engages his own curiosity (Open Mind) inquiring honestly, Please, if there is any other way. . . .He wrestles and wrestles and wrestles before he roots down into his own commitment (Open Will) and says Not my will, but your will.
His radical openness leads him to the cross, naked and exposed. Like a woman giving birth, both blood and water flow out of him. Like that woman he must simply be a servant to that great pulsing, contracting, downward pull that is both from within and beyond him. As long as he can, he will breathe with it. but he will also surrender to it and and cry out his pain to his most intimate partner.
His radical openness makes him a marked man, even after the birth, marked, like a new mother, with real wounds. Marked, like a new mother, by his overarching concern in feeding his lambs.
Hi radical openness leads him to the cross. Like a child being birthed, the space into which he descends can hardly feel like entering the promise of new life. In fact, it certainly feels more like having the life squeezed out of you. It feels like suffocation. It feels like death.
Through his radical openness, like the newborn, he emerges on the other side into a more expansive life, his presence both more wondrous and more available.
All the while, the midwives--his mother, Mary Magdalene, and others--are gathered around him. They know something about what he is experiencing. They will not leave him to do this on his own, though none of them can do it for him.They know how to attend to both the one giving birth and the one being born. They care for the body. They hold and they swaddle him. They treasure him. They find a place in which to lay him.
Whether you are a man or woman, whether you have given birth, or not, his most sacred hours have been lived through you. For you, too, were born into new life. In fact, your life began an expression and echo of his most sacred energy of surrender.
You have made this journey. You do know how to surrender. You have done it before. Has your time come to surrender into new life again?
The art in the link below may shock and offend you. Or, it may shock and inspire you, as it did me. I've wanted to share it with you for so long. Now is the time. This piece, entitled God Giving Birth was painted by Swedish artist, Monica Sjoo. You can read more about it here.
This Holy Week, this is the icon of the suffering Christ I will be praying with and through. For guidance as to how to pray with such an image, see Richard Rohr's meditation A Dialogue with the Crucified God from his most recent book, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For and Believe, pages 155-158.
May you too find your life in his, and his in yours this Holy Week.