Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 12th

As usual, I've been holding onto a lot of stuff, not sure how to blog about it. It is not easy being transparent in public about spiritual experiences that are this unconventional and this personal.

Anyway. The things I've been learning about, lately, have been about the way in which He died and His resurrection. This is not easy to experience and I won't be able to articulate it very well, but I will try.

I've been reading the gospels again and recently read where Jesus is invited to dinner with the Pharisees and they noticed He had not washed His hands.

I've read this story a lot of times, but it occurred to me, as I was reading it, that Jesus had a choice about how to respond.

That is, it's possible the Pharisees were, in a way, vetting Him. After all, He had quite a following, by then, and though His teachings were unconventional and challenging, He hadn't yet completely enraged the religious authorities.

How tempting it might have been for Him to play up to them- to make powerful connections with the religious authorities. He could have captivated them, dominated them, drawn them and used them.

He could have had the adulation of the powerful, if He had wanted- if He had played to Herod, who was fascinated by Him, if He had played to the Pharisees and lawyers.

But He could not, because He had another message that was burning in His heart; because Jesus has an upside down Kingdom.

So He said this:

"You Pharisees are a walking contradiction. You are so concerned about external things—like someone who washes the outside of a cup and bowl but never cleans the inside, which is what counts! Beneath your fastidious exterior is a mess of extortion and filth.

"You guys don’t get it. Did the potter make the outside but not the inside too?   If you were full of goodness within, you could overflow with generosity from within, and if you did that, everything would be clean for you.

"Woe to you, Pharisees! Judgment will come on you! You are fastidious about tithing—keeping account of every little leaf of mint and herb—but you neglect what really matters: justice and the love of God! If you’d get straight on what really matters, then your fastidiousness about little things would be worth something." (Luke 11:39-42, The Voice)

He consistently threw His life away. Even before He died, Jesus was throwing His life away- He was living to reveal the Father's heart. His life, in that sense, was not about Himself. It was after He suffered and died that He fully came into His own.

I was reading just today and reached the resurrection, and the angels say to the women, "Why do you look for the Living One in a cemetery?" (Luke 24:5)

Both the Message and the Voice versions use that phrase, the Living One.

That really just leaped out at me. In fact, I sat there, just looking at it. A few days ago, I had a very powerful and emotional spiritual experience and seeing that phrase brought it all back.

Often, when I am with Him, I am telling Him His own story. Sometimes I do this because the story rises up in me and I want to give voice to it. Sometimes I do this because He asks me.

Either way, it's usually a wonderful experience. However, this time, He asked me to tell Him the story of His crucifixion, which I really, really did not want to do.

We seemed to be sitting in some beautiful place that I had not seen before; where the sky was reflected on the water and the water was so clear it seemed to be also sky. It was so quiet there; there was no sound at all, when I listened. Everything was full of light, diffused in the light.

At first, I refused to tell this story. But He was persistent; He took me into His arms and whispered, tell Me. And I could not refuse Him. I opened my heart up to it.

I couldn't take in the entire experience- I'm not anywhere near that strong, so it was as if it were coming to me in shards that opened up- as if my heart were expanding out, for a brief moment, into His own.

My heart was continually being cracked open by these shards of pain and love was continually upwelling from these many cracks and I was continually whispering to Him- nonsense, basically- because, what could I say?

I kept thinking, I can't take any more. I can't take any more of this, but the story kept unfolding and I kept getting caught up in it. It was emotionally and spiritually draining. I kept thinking, how could anyone endure this? Why won't this end?

It was as if I felt Him dying- He couldn't breathe, anyway, and the blood kept draining away, His life kept draining away and away and He let it go.

I felt, to put it mildly, pretty ragged by the time He died. And there was a period or some kind of internal silence and I was caught up in the reality that He had died, but I had barely enough time to begin to consider this before I realized, even more profoundly, that He was now alive.

This knowledge went through me in a way that I had not known before. I was crying and not coherent. I could feel that He was alive, He was warmly, even humanly, alive in my arms.

Whereas, before, they had taken His body down, very dead and terribly broken- a corpse to be shrouded, buried, put away out of sight.

And now He was alive, only more so. The life that was surging so powerfully and so warmly through Him was that life of the Father, that had drawn Him up, that same life that surges through us-that has drawn us up with Him, so that we are living in Him.

Because He is the Resurrection and the Life- in His very person.

I kept throwing my arms around Him and I was babbling, and what all I said, I don't exactly remember, except that I was saying or sobbing over and over again, "Oh, You Living One! You Living One!" I would have fallen to His feet, but He was holding me.

That experience must have triggered my memory of that phrase- I know I must have read that gospel in The Message version a few years ago.

Then, I read this quote from Henry Nouwen, and it sort of pulled it together for me:

"If God is found in our hard times, then all of life, no matter how apparently insignificant or difficult, can open us to God’s work among us.

"To be grateful does not mean repressing our remembered hurts. But as we come to God with our hurts—honestly, not superficially—something life changing can begin slowly to happen.

"We discover how God is the One who invites us to healing. We realize that any dance of celebration must weave both the sorrows and the blessings into a joyful step.

"I once saw a stone cutter remove great pieces from a huge rock on which he was working. In my imagination I thought, That rock must be hurting terribly. Why does this man wound the rock so much? But as I look longer, I saw the figure of a graceful dancer emerge gradually from the stone, looking at me in my mind’s eye and saying, “You foolish man, didn’t you know I had to suffer and thus enter into my glory?”

"The mystery of the dance is that its movements are discovered in the mourning. To heal is to let the Holy Spirit call me to dance, to believe again, even amid my pain, that God will orchestrate and guide my life."

— Henri Nouwen from “Turn My Mourning into Dancing