Unhurryup!™ into Easter #25

Lean into God's love, centering your attention and focus toward Him.

Think of a recent "stress" - it might be vocational, relational, financial, personal, medical etc...

Clench your hands as if you're holding onto that stress. As you tighten your fists, pay attention to where you feel the stress in your body. Is it manifesting somewhere besides your fists?

Notice your breathing - as you think about this stress, what parts of your body "tighten" - does your heart beat faster?

Now, take a few minutes and imagine God walking toward you. What is He inviting you to do with your burden?

Take a few deep breaths and as you exhale, slowly release your hands:
"Lord, I consent to your love and care today."
Evaluate honestly how you are as you come into His presence.
As you imagine God coming toward you and as you release your grip on your burdens, what else are you feeling? How would you describe to Him your "just-as-I-am" self? Take a moment, and without any pretense or masks or candy coating, tell God how you feel. Maybe even consider expressing it bodily (i.e. do you feel happy - get up and dance a little jig; are you angry? Slam your fist into a pillow. etc)

Notice what stirs your soul as you interact with the following:

Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time

30They left that place and passed through Galilee. 
Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 
31because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, 
“The Son of Man is going to be delivered over to human hands. 
He will be killed, and after three days he will rise.” 
32But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), Mk 9:30–32.

Jesus, for the second time, tells his disciples about his impending death and resurrection. He has pulled them aside so that they will not be distracted from the ongoing demands of the crowds. He wanted their full attention because he wanted to teach them about his suffering and rising. 

They were not distracted by the needs of the ministry - but they were distracted by their own hearts. The disciples did not understand and so they didn't risk speaking up and looking foolish or perhaps having Jesus rebuke them again like he did to Peter the first time Jesus told them about his death. Why was he bringing this up again? This was a topic better left unchallenged, pushed aside. Do we really have to talk about this death stuff teacher?

So what did they do instead?
33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 
“What were you arguing about on the road?” 
34But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), Mk 9:33–34.

Evidently, rather than ask Jesus about his death and what "rising again" meant, they chose, instead, to argue about who is the greatest. Classic deflection. Brilliant avoidance. Perhaps the only better strategy would have been to talk about who would win the World Cup - but that hadn't come into being yet.

The dynamics of these scenes are sad to me. Sad mostly, because of the fear that isolates: Jesus is left to think about his suffering alone. And frustrating because the disciples avoided questions that could have possibly transformed them on the spot. Instead, they resort to immature bantering and ego-posturing.

I am not too dissimilar. I can count many times in which when I have been confronted with something I didn't understand, or flat out didn't want to hear or deal with. But because of my fear, ego, or protectiveness, I zip my lip. Rather than ask and live into questions that might not have answers (but will transform me merely in the living of them), I resort to other activities that might bolster my confidence and ego - like arguing with others about who was the greatest. Or changing the topic...or giving an inspiring little pep talk to encourage the other to think more positively, to pull up their boot straps or take a deep breath, "cuz it'll all work out for the good." Coincidentally,  I don't ever see/hear God giving pep talks in the Bible.

Recently I shared a topic that was tender to my soul - about some confusion I'm experiencing as I encounter a new season in my walk with God. I shared some doubts and some fears...and I felt like others were looking at me with great concern - maybe even wondering why I should even be in ministry. One person started to affix a Scriptural band-aid about God's sufficiency in my weakness. Not really helpful to hear - in fact, I felt more alone and misunderstood. Another came in with a pep talk, "You must never believe that, you know God is good...and He'll hold you up." There were no questions about how I felt about being in this place...no one willing to sit in the confusion with me or just say, "I love you." Then, when my allotted sharing time was up, we turned to the next person: "so, Suzy (not a real person involved) how can we pray specifically for you?" Suzy didn't say much. And the topic abruptly changed: "Aren't you sick of this weather....?"
Why is it so difficult to be present with pain? Why do I choose silence when I cannot understand? Why am I afraid I'll be overwhelmed by it? Mostly, because I don't want to show any ignorance. And I don't like being out of control. And it is far too often about my own ego wanting to be in control or having answers or able to fix it. Truth is, I cannot be present with another's pain unless I can be free of my own ego needing to be right, smart, or acknowledged. And fear of not understanding another's pain makes me feel out of control and not very useful - neither of which are called for to come alongside one who is suffering. In other words, when I am suffering, or wandering, or pondering things outside the box of the "tidy" and sanitized version of Christianity that God seems to be inviting me to explore, I do not need you to try and fix or control me. I want you to grab my hand, open your ears and listen. Just be with me.

I wonder how much Jesus longed for that. Instead, he encountered a fearful bunch unable to share with him as he courageously walked toward this painful future.

The disciples are afraid because they do not know. Oh how our not knowing disables us. It is easier to turn a deaf ear then to really pay attention and enter the messy fray. In their fear they turn to frivolous banter but I don't blame them...I see myself in them far more than I care to admit. But I want to learn, better, how to be present to my own and others' sufferings in a way so as to provide safety and welcome even when nothing gets "fixed" or "solved" or "answered."

I find that I want to skip past these "suffering" meditations and get on to the resurrection. Yes, the resurrection is coming, but without staying in the angst of the suffering - which seems to be one of the few things in life that truly diminishes my ego and all it's protectiveness and frivolity - I will merely skim life and be more lonely - unable to be present to God, myself and others. 

Imagine yourself in this scene - Jesus wants to tell you something difficult. 
How do you want to respond to Jesus' words?
How do you feel about the disciples' response - have you ever responded like them? 
Have you ever had others respond to you like them?
What fear might have been at the core of the response (either by you or others)?
What suffering are you currently enduring - in what ways is it helping to diminish your ego?

Take 3-5 minutes in silence to listen to what He might be inviting you toward.
Trust Him to open your heart toward fully receiving and living into His love.

As you leave this space, ask God for the grace to be present to your own and others' difficulties without skipping to "lighter" less painful topics. Pay attention to how you are able to be present to yourself, God and others or how you "avoid" this when it's difficult.

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All written material unless otherwise noted copyrighted 2011 Paula Gamble.