Thursday, March 27th, 2014 – The Third Thursday in Lent
Loss: The Blessing and the Wound
The arc of the Lenten season is severe when considered from the point of view of Jesus. Just before His forty day sojourn into the land of the unknown, He is celebrated by the heavens and people alike. He has a baptismal moment of glory at the Jordan River, the follow-up being desert time that undoubtedly passes like spiritual dog years: one day feels like seven. On our calendar, He comes out of that time and goes directly to the Triumphal entry on Sunday and Calvary on Friday. According to the Gospel stories, in actual time He has something like two more years before all that happens. The majority of His public ministry takes place between the desert and the cross. Not so according to our liturgical calendar.
It’s odd. We have Him doing various things each Sunday during Lent by way of the lectionary, that three-year cycle of Sunday readings we use for worship. Mostly though, whatever the appointed readings, I think of Him during this season wandering, sweating, fasting, preparing, praying, wondering, surviving, all in an environment that is inhospitable to every living thing except fear.
The desert is a Petri dish of fear.
Jesus largely avoids that because He isn’t afraid in the way we often are. He’s not worried about his children; not (apparently) worried about his parents. He’s not ‘linked in’ or ‘connected’ or thinking about the next business trend or keeping his job. Neither is he working on a five-year plan, maximizing his tax advantages, using the time to rejoice about being ‘unplugged’ or thinking about the inevitable book deal this kind of experience will engender.
He is, however, thinking about loss. Loss is fear’s apparent doppelganger: it looks and feels so much like it, and arrives so often in fear’s company, it is often mistaken for fear. But fear is a liar. Loss is real, only crueler and more deceptive.
Fear, we know. When we are rigorously honest, we can determine what we are afraid of. We account for fear by the dark future we imagine lurking out there.
Loss is accounted for by what is absent, by what is missing, by what was once reliable. Loss is focused on what we hoped for, what we once had, what is or will be (in earthly terms) permanently irretrievable. Fear is about persistent, maniacal noise. Loss is about silence.
Jesus is preparing for the silence accompanying what He will lose: the loss of His life and the loss of His immediate, earthly hope for God’s people. He will wrestle with loss in Gethsemane like Jacob wrestled with God at the River Jabbock. And He will learn. He will learn that the blessing of God comes through the wound, just as Jacob did. Like Jacob, He will find His true identity in His struggle with God, the same place we will find ours.
Questions for the day: What am I learning in my struggles with God? How is that struggle shaping who I am in God?
– Christopher Powell