It’s Good Friday. We are here, in the Easter Triduum already. It seems as though Lent had barely begun and now it’s already finished. Two days ago, I sat in our chapel reading through my journal, tracing my journey through Lent this year. What an adventure this has been! Even amidst the day-to-day activity of my studies and ministries, I walked through the desert of Lent.
As I read through my journal entries, I was reminded that the desert has not been a desolate place. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed, was anxious and struggled with fatigue along the way, but accompanied by my book of poetry, I encountered the God of Life each day. The Word in the Wilderness by Malcolm Guite has been a wise and challenging companion on the journey.
At the start of this desert journey, I encountered oh-so-familiar temptations, alongside Jesus who
laughed, ‘You are not what you seem.
Love is the waking life, you are the dream’.
(excerpt from “All the Kingdoms of the World”, Malcolm Guite)
Jesus shook me from my complacency and urged me to question my desires. When do I care too much (or even a bit) about being ‘special’ or ‘better’ or ‘superior’? Where are these desires coming from? Jesus reminded me that
Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
(excerpt from “The Bright Field”, R.S. Thomas)
This poem prompted me to admit that I struggle to see the miracle of the lit bush, the brightness of God’s presence in my daily life. I often look to the future. I give in so often to dissatisfaction and to the tensions within me that keep me
Pinned where I am, right now, somewhere, I turn
And turn to orient myself. I have
Directions calculated, maps at hand:
Hopelessly lost till I look up at last.
(excerpt from “Maps”, Holly Ordway)
On this journey, I can see that I’ve often tried to guide myself, thinking I’ve got to do it on my own. I wrestle with fear that keeps me held fast within myself, pinned down, unable to reach out to others, unable to see myself differently or to live differently. I fear inadequacy and yet there is no escaping my inadequacy. And yet God does not ever let fear have the final word. God keeps encouraging me to leave the fear behind. I was inspired by the words of my poet-guide who proclaimed
This is the day to leave the dark behind you
Take the adventure, step beyond the hearth,
Shake off at last the shackles that confined you,
And find the courage for the forward path.
You yearned for freedom through the long night watches,
The day has come and you are free to choose,
Now is your time and season.
Companioned still by your familiar crutches,
And leaning on the props you hope to lose,
You step outside and widen your horizon.
(excerpt from “First Steps, Brancaster”, Malcolm Guite)
I’ve recognized that fear, as ever, is my crutch as much as it is a prison keeps me from doing what I am called to do. I feel the tension of that fear. There is tension between fear that holds me back and the courageous invitation to move forward. To move from the darkness to the light, from shackles to freedom, from lies to truth, from being caught up in being an individual to learning to live in community. I have faith in the graces God has given me (I think back to my 30-day retreat and I am overwhelmed at God’s generosity) and in those graces that God continues to give, and yet I am hesitant to truly act out of faith, to let go of the lie that says I can’t and to embrace the truth that says I can.
under flannel sheets, weeping
How I talk to God.
Moonlight on pillow
tending to my open wounds
How God talks to me.
(excerpt from “How I talk to God”, Kelly Belmonte)
I know that alone I do not have the strength or the courage to be the radical disciple of Christ that I long to be. I fight myself and I fight with God. I do not let myself submit to God even when I want to submit. Sometimes I just don’t know how. I call out to God:
Batter my heart, three person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new…
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
(excerpt from “Batter my Heart”, John Donne)
Every tiny moment of submission, of opening myself up, of letting God get a good honest look at me, throughout this desert journey, has been a moment of transformation and of gift leading to a renewal of vocation.
Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
The clarity of early morning…
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.
(excerpt from “Late Ripeness”, Czeslaw Milosz)
This poem thrills me. I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard. Of course. Whether I think I am worthy or not, or have anything to offer to God’s service. How could I ever really be worthy? Somehow, it seems that as I am, I am good enough for God. I am reminded that I am loved and I have been entrusted with being part of God’s plan for the world, part of the plan for salvation, redemption, and renewal. But I must remember, always remember, to
Open the map to him and make a start,
And down the dizzy spirals, through the dark,
his light will go before you. Let him chart
And name and heal. Expose the hidden ache
To him, the stinging fires and smoke that blind
Your judgement, carry you away, the mirk
And muted gloom in which you cannot find
The love that you once thought worth dying for.
Call him to all you cannot call to mind.
(excerpt from “Through the Gate”, Malcolm Guite)
This poem recalls the beginning of the journey, when I first set out with Jesus into the desert. Have I let him chart the course, to name and heal? Have I exposed my hidden aches to him? It’s a reminder to constantly go back to the source of life and healing and to keep turning myself over to him.
The waters cleanse us with his gentle touch,
And here he shows the full extent of love
To us whose love is always incomplete,
In vain we search the heavens high above,
The God of love is kneeling at our feet.
Though we betray him, though it is the night.
He meets us here and loves us into light.
(excerpt from “Maundy Thursday”, Malcolm Guite)
This journey does not end here; it will continue into the new life of the resurrection. But for now, there is nowhere else to go except to the cross. I go to offer myself in love and adoration to the one I love, the one who has journeyed with me through the desert.