But the beatitude didn’t end there. It went on to say, “With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” Suddenly I was a kid put in her place, poked in the chest: You think you’re so good.
I’m sure Jesus didn’t intend for me to hear his words that way, nor did Eugene Peterson who translated Matthew 5:3. But the verse made me angry whenever I thought about it, so I didn’t.
Soon afterwards, I read in Gerald May’s The Awakened Heart: Living Beyond Addiction that God is hoping for “unexpurgated prayer. . . our being with God consciously just as we are with no censorship, no cleaning up our act, no posturing or posing–just be real.”
This means showing up in prayer with my anger at feeling shamed into humility.
For Lent this year, I’m praying with Meeting Jesus in John, daily meditations by the Society of St. John the Evangelist. In Week 1 Day 2, Brother Mark reflects on John 3:16, explaining that “the world” God so loved is both the created world and the fallen world. Then he adds, “So if I were praying with this passage, I think I would personalize it and reflect on how God loves all of me, not only whatever I might be in my heavenly perfection eventually, but all of me, even now–the good, the bad and the ugly, all things together.”
I try to picture God loving all of me . . . all the time. I can easily imagine God loving me when I’m helping a homeless man, but it takes longer to feel God loving me without an iota of judgment when I’ve chosen again and again to do what robs me of life, when I face my regret and am afraid to hope, and when I’m at the end of my rope.
I pick up my pen and, without stopping, write in my journal until the page is full. As I do, God listens to my anger, hears my disappointment, and feels the weight of my shame.
An image comes to mind. I see myself nailed to a cross of desires, stretched out by the tension between two worlds. I also see God’s hands supporting my aching arms.
Later in the day, long after my prayer time is over, I remember the poke in the chest that brought me down a notch when I was a kid. I wonder what God, who loves all of me, saw when that happened.
I don’t remember the incident which prompted the accusation, but I do remember my shock. I didn’t think I was good or bad. I was just happy to be me.
That’s it. That’s what God saw: the part of me that disappeared that day. God wants all of me back.
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Reflection questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:
- Be real with God in your prayers today. Let the real you meet the real God who is far more loving than we can hope for or imagine.
- As you bring all of yourself to God, what do you notice? Do you feel settled or unsettled? Tell God about this.
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