Grace in 12s: a reflection on pain

Wiggle Room

When pain is raw

out there pulsing on the floor

like a live thing—

wiggle room is scarce.

 

When pain thunders deep and wide

echoes reverberate

beneath one’s breastbone,

the fortitude to engage grace—

give and receive

is spare.

 

When suffering is long…

we don’t really know how long,

do we?

unless one asks, or has been there

trudging alongside

seasons of the journey.

 

Mud and muck cling to one’s shoes

and laughter bursts

at hidden ridiculousness.

Oh, God, let us

keep sharing laughter

in journeys long and deep.

 

When pain is raw

the wiggle room to extend honor

grace-filled speech and action,

is narrow – barely squeezing by

CAUTIOUSLY: so I don’t tear open wounds

that might just begin to heal.

 

My power to heal

to effect and sustain change

is only so great as the source from which I draw it.

Come to the well, dear sister.

Come to the well.

I am talking to me.

 

jfig     6/2020

RW pic grace & fire

After a career-long of assessing and addressing pain, it remains apparent to me, that each person’s pain, is enough. That our service is not so much to avoid or get rid of it, but to hold it with and for one another, in order to strengthen what remains. To carry it for seasons, in often less than capable hands, through the grey dusk of mourning,  while we wait together for healing to come.

It is not hidden in scripture, that God commissions his followers to heal. I love the passage in Luke 10:1-11, regarding this commission:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1(ESV)

Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’  Luke 10:8-11(ESV)

I love that we are sent – invited to go – where Jesus himself is about to attend. I love that we are invited to bring Jesus close to the hurting. I’m reassured that we are given permission to leave when we are not wanted. That we are not meant to carry away with us, the weighty dust of, ‘You are not welcome here.’ That we are meant to leave with the attitude of our message intact: Nevertheless, the kingdom of God has come near.” Jesus also reminds his followers, (vs. 20) that the thing to be celebrated, is not the ‘works’ they have done, the authority they have wielded over demons. The thing to be celebrated is that they are among the company of those who have received grace unto salvation. The thing to be celebrated is grace. So far as I can tell, none among any of us is given the authority to say who receives grace unto salvation. None.

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20 (ESV)

Raw pain demands our attention. We look at our smallish hands, stunned…how can we, as individuals, as a society, hold this much pain?  “Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.”  Oh, that I might be a bearer of the kingdom… with smallish hands.

The story in Luke 8, where Jesus, in the middle of a crowd, is called to the bedside of a dying girl, speaks. The child is ‘about 12 years old.’ Jesus is detained in responding. He chooses to be detained, to engage a woman who grasps his robe, pleading for help. She has been bleeding for 12 years. As long as the young girl has been alive. Each person’s pain is enough. Jesus attends to all: to the girl and to the woman; to the father oppressed by fear. He draws each of them up with kindness. He also has choice words for the ‘advocates’ in both situations. Please see Luke 8:40-56

“Luke 8:1 (NLT) – Soon afterward Jesus began a.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/luk/8/1/p1/s_981001&gt;.

Jesus, may I be one who bears the news of your healing presence, as you draw near to those who are hurting. May I quiet myself enough to realize where you are about to make yourself known; what town you would have me visit. Open my eyes, not just to the pain of the one who is dying a distance far-off, but also to one who is bleeding out along my path. Help me choose to carry kindness, the comfort of your impending presence. Give me caution to not fan the flames of false heroics, nor torch anyone with my words, or actions,  but to look for the fire of Your Spirit in the night sky, and follow where you lead. Follow you toward hope and healing, toward freedom and abundant life. Gird me with patience to hold the pain of others, its hot unwieldy expressions; that together we might see the healing dawn of your powerful grace; watch you resurrect life from the ashes of our self-absorption and hatred, our disdain for others, and woefully, for You. We need you, Lord Jesus. We need you, Father God. We need you, Holy Spirit. Bring your healing love that honors and resurrects life in the tiniest of increments. Come Lord Jesus. Amen

“Luke 10:1 (ESV) – After this the Lord appointed.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/10/1/p1/s_983001&gt;.
“Scripture quotations marked ESV are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Photo: Corinthians 1:8-11

 

journey: is love really pink?

Joy – quiet, beautiful joy, this elbow room of grace –  falls into our month by waiting, and praying, and watching one another choose grace, and the assumption of positive intent.

Woe – how easily we offend.

But this morning, after he chooses grace, I choose to wait… while you, God of all questions, offer a picture:

Wait…at 7:00 it is still dark, though one can hear the geese.

@ 7:08, and 7:09 muddy, burnt clouds of orange frame the South Pass. They rise, as does the sun, and grasp the edges of night’s blanket.

Wait…

I wait, walking… and wonder about pink. But while my back is turned, bold light seriously shakes the clouds. Nevertheless, pinkless, I walk toward home content. There is light. There is beauty. A gebillionth day God has made something that he called good.

Wait…7:53 and suddenly the sky is streaked with pink. I go searching for more – at the  windows up and down, but the glow remains saffron. Aaaah, burnished with time… but born in the fresh pink of grace. Thank you, God of longsuffering love, for grace applied.

pic RW journey

jfig; somewhere on the journey of marital love

Soil

What if…

(audacious thought)

all the toil of Genesis 3

is wrought

in the soil of grace

What if?

 

What if

all the thorns and thistles

briars and invasive species

cannot withstand

this organism

called grace?

 

What if…

outside the gates

of Eden

(and Jerusalem)

the hills are alive…

in the colors of grace?

 

What if, all the toil of Genesis 3, were wrought in the soil of grace?

 

jfig 5/18

RW soil pic

The question that stops me in my tracks this morning, suspending motion, is this: What if God knew all along, that as Adam and Eve, and you and I spaded our way through the clay that sucks at the soles of our muck boots; what if God knew we would keep turning over… grace? That as we scratched out a living, and healing and hope down in the harsh dirt of living, we would turn over… grace? Not in the garden – in the warmth of Eden’s sun- but in the hard, cracked soil of all the desolate places outside? What if at Golgotha, skulls decaying in the margins of error and shame, one man amended the fields forever with blood-red grace? What if he knew that as we turned over life, clumps clinging, weighting the treads of our toiling steps, that this dirt would be good, not just for vegetables, but for journeying souls. What if Jesus allowed himself to be led outside, because that is where we are?

What if the fields of grace are ALIVE, breathing with organisms, to decompose the stench and misconceptions and broken ideas of sin; lies about who God is; lies we’ve propagated? What if this toil down on our knees, troweling through the dirt, painstakingly weeding the small creepers, rooting out this…and that which holds back fruit; what if all that dirt under our fingernails, turned over rich one day, and scratched out painfully the next, what if ALL of it… is grace?

Scripture references:

Genesis 3:17-19   And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”
“Genesis 3:17 (NLT) – And to the man he.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 28 May, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/gen/3/17/p1/s_3017&gt;.

Luke 23:26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:32-34a Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“Luke 23:26 (ESV) – And as they led him.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 28 May, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/23/26/p1/s_996026&gt;.