This is my last post about what happened on my 8-day silent retreat in July. If you haven’t read the previous ones, I encourage you to do that before you read today’s.
“We need to be there with them,” God said. “It’s time.”
“I’m ready,” Jesus replied.
I heard the joy in his voice and saw relief on God’s face. But the Holy Spirit began to weep. She knew what would happen to Jesus.
“I’ll go with him,” I said.
From the annunciation of Jesus’ birth to his rising from death, my job on the Love Team was to stay with Jesus wherever he went.
I’ll never forget sitting beside him on the hillside as we shared a meal with five thousand new friends. “Isn’t this the best?” he said.
Before dawn the next day, we rushed down from the mountain where we’d gone to pray. Jesus saw the disciples in their boat, straining at the oars, exhausted and afraid. He wanted to go to them.
When our boat landed on the other side, we were hungry and tired and the locals took us in. We went to my friend’s house. While we ate dinner, she told Jesus about her life. Her story didn’t shock her anymore, but it shocked him. He’d be wiping his tears and she’d be saying, “It’s okay. I’m fine now.”
Everything Jesus did in life and in death was motivated by compassion. He’d look, see, feel and love.
When we were in a hurry to get to the disciples, I hesitated at the shore. I don’t have the divinity or the compassion Jesus does. If I was going to go with him, I would have to walk on water too. I would have to do the impossible.
But when I held Jesus’ hand, it didn’t seem impossible at all.
We just did it.
God, I thought: this is too hard.
I throw myself at it.
I drag myself through it.
It is more than I can do.
It is hard; I doubt I have what it takes.
And then you said,
no, it is not hard. It is impossible.
You cannot do it.
You don’t have that power.
But I do, and I give it to you.
I breathe my power through you.
You need not “dig deep” to find it.
It’s right there, flowing through you.
It’s there when you don’t feel it.
It’s there when you feel you’re a failure.
As long as you think it’s hard,
it will be hard.
But when you realize it’s impossible
then you know it’s not yours to do, but mine.
Stop trying to do it. Let me do the hard work.
You just come along.
I am doing the hard thing in your life.
Stay with me while I do it,
because without you, even for me,
∗ ∗ ∗
I watched another movie this week in which “good” triumphed over “evil” by using violence. It saddened me to watch people being oppressed, beaten and abused. But I took no comfort in seeing the hero of the story kill their persecutor.
In Richard Rohr’s meditation on Tuesday, he quoted Walter Wink who said,
There are three general responses to evil: (1) passivity, (2) violent opposition, and (3) the third way of . . . nonviolence articulated by Jesus. . . .
Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. His is a third alternative not even touched by these options. . . .
Jesus’ Third Way bears at its very heart the love of enemies. This is the hardest word to utter in a context of conflict because it can so easily be misunderstood as spinelessness. But it is precisely the message [Martin Luther King, Jr.] made central to his efforts in the polarized circumstances of the American South.
[Martin Luther King, Jr said,] “To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half-dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
It isn’t hard to love our enemies; it’s impossible. But this is the love-mischief Jesus invites us to do with him.