Good morning, New Women. Where I am -- in Tennessee -- spring is dipping its toe into the icy waters to see if it's time to come out. Daffodils are blooming in profusion in the most unlikely places -- around garbage cans, in long-neglected fields where buildings have been torn down -- and the buds on my dogwood trees are ready to burst open. And yet the air is still cold and snow fluries are predicted for tonight.
Just as the transformation of the earth's seasons isn't a linear, step-by-step thing, neither is OUR personal, spiritual transformation as we follow Jesus to Jerusalem. Just when we "get" something and start to run with it, we realize that we didn't totally get it after all, or we did but there's still another thing TO get. And another. And, sheesh, another.
That's called a life in God.
So, yes, it's hard to accept our need for a childlike faith, even when we have an "old" independent soul. It's tough not to be disillusioned because what we're learning on this journey isn't immediately and visibly "working."
The world tells us we sholuld have what we want immediately, and our advanced technology reinforces that. But when it comes to this journey with Jesus, the one that's going to last all (yes, ALL) our lives, we can't be impatient and when we are, we need to take that to our Lord.
Along with everything else that would veer us off course.
Besides, each of us is not on this path alone. And sometimes, that's where we run into trouble ...
We're still hanging out in Galilee with Jesus. I've been on this trek before so I tell you we're going to be here for another week. Some of you sigh with relief because you're not ready to move on. Some of you mutter that you'd really like to get going -- this is taking WAY longer than you expected. Jesus smiles at all of it -- is he a cool leader, or what? -- and says, "There's something I want to discuss with you."
So we gather for brunch on the back deck of the small house that overlooks a sort of wild but inviting garden. As we pass around the bread and filafel and grape leaf wraps, Jesus says to us, "What would you do if someone in this group sinned against you?"
We all look at each other, convinced that could NEVER happen. I mean, except maybe for the fact that SOMEBODY always takes the last of the baklava without asking if anybody else wants any ... and SOMEBODY hurts people's feelings without realizing it and SOMEBODY gets short with her roommates when she's tired and cranky. Except for that .. what's he talking about?
Our thoughts seem to be enough for him, because he nods knowingly and goes on. "Here's what I want you to do. When that happens (notice he doesn't say "if"), get her off alone and talk to her about it. You don't have to get all up in her dental work and be holier than thou. Just discuss it. If she gets what you're talking about, excellent."
One of us (you?) says, "What if she doesn't? I'm not saying anybody here would be like that, but what if?"
"Excellent question," Jesus says. "If she doesn't hear you -- and your complaint is truly valid -- get a couple of the other girls and all of you go together to talk to her."
One of you speaks for all who start to squirm. "If somebody did that with me, I'd feel like I was being ganged up on."
"Even if they did it in love?" Jesus says. "Even if it wasn't about who was right and who was wrong, or about them feeling like they were better than you? If it was about everyone wanting YOU to be whole and healed?"
We concede that maybe that would be okay. Jesus doesn't wait for us all to get totally on board with that. He continues:
"And if she still doesn't want to hear the truth -- and I do mean the truth -- what then?"
"We give up?" someone says, only-half joking.
"But then wouldn't the group that went to her talk about it among themselves, and then it would turn into gossip?" we say.
Jesus nods and says, "Exactly. The next step is to bring it to the group as a whole."
"That sounds like an ambush!" someone says, eyes flashing.
"Ah," Jesus says. "That wouldn't happen if you invite me to be among you -- if you pray for my presence so that the truth can be heard and the best way found. For where two or three of you are gathered IN MY NAME-- that is precisely what that means -- I AM there with you. And when I'm there, so will the truth be."
"What if the truth hurts?" someone says.
Jesus holds out his arms to us. A few us of us go to him and lean as close as we can get. Others edge closer. Some are still reluctant, but he smiles on them too.
"Did I ever promise that growing wouldn't hurt? Did I ever say there wouldn't be pain on this journey? You are human beings with free will. Mistakes will be made. But you don't have to suffer. Pain is inevitable, but suffering? That is optional."
We fall silent. No one wants to instantly go to someone else in the group and take her aside and say, "When you imply that your way of worshiping is better, more godly than mine, I feel so less-than," or whatever. But we do get it. And each of us goes off to ponder:
Who among my Christian friends and family has sinned against me, truly? Have I addressed it with him or her individually and kindly? If I haven't, can I do that? Why do I hesitate? If I have done it and nothing has come of it, do I have the Jesus-courage to take other Christians with me and pursue it further -- not for my own sake but for the sake of the one who has sinned against me?
Much to ponder. And perhaps much to discuss ...