It isn’t that easy.
Jesus asks, “Are you coming?” I say, “Yes.” And then what?
I’m not instantly empowered like a superhero released from the kryptonite of salt and sugar, egoic desires, or negative thoughts. Taking Jesus’ hand won’t prevent me from sinking into self-criticism, making mistakes or experiencing fear or depression. He isn’t asking me to walk on the sea of my suffering unaffected by it.
Yet when I hear Jesus’ invitation to go with him, I do hear a we’re-going-to-do-this-thing grit. It isn’t a brute force I’m given that makes transformation possible. It’s courage to continue the journey of deepening awareness, grieving losses, receiving compassion, letting go, and not deserting myself when I can’t let go.
And that even sounds easier than it is. Deepening awareness involves recognizing how my patterns of behaviour affect others. This can evoke feelings of sadness, disappointment, regret and shame, recriminating thoughts, and fear of judgment and rejection. Grieving our losses isn’t a walk in the park either. Receiving compassion is hard when everything in me wants to stay behind a self-protective shield. And if I hear that Let It Go song one more time, I’m going to scream.
“It isn’t simple. It isn’t easy,” I tell Jesus.
“It isn’t,” he replies softly.
Once again, he offers me his hand, and we take a step toward my suffering: my disappointment over a pattern of behaviour that hurt someone.
Instead of pushing my uncomfortable feelings away, I feel the cold waters of sadness rise over my ankles, my thighs, my chest. Waves of regret, insecurity and inadequacy peak and fall. But as Isaiah promised, I’m not swept away. I feel buoyed up. I’m able to hear from God and from another that I’m forgiven. That empowers me to forgive myself.
I notice something else buoying me up. As I ruminate over what happened, I make a discovery that’s liberating.
I know that we’re all human and that on some level we all struggle with feeling inadequate. But I realize now, I didn’t really believe it.
Some people seem so together. They look together. They say the things I wished I’d thought of. They are wise, kind and loving. So I assumed they don’t struggle the way I do, that they can handle anything, that they’ve arrived.
But they haven’t. My confirmation bias simply set aside moments I’ve witnessed and times they’ve told me about when that they feel as insecure as I do.
A friend said recently, “I can look like I have it all together when I don’t, and it doesn’t do me any favours.”
So here’s my take away. Nobody walks on water.
When Jesus says, “Are you coming?” he isn’t inviting me to put on my superhuman cape and be what I’m not. Yet, he’s determined to take me somewhere and do something miraculous with who I am.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
–Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)
Questions for your Lenten journey?
- What do you hear when Jesus says, “Are you coming?”
- Where do you think you’re headed?
- What goes on for you when you consider allowing your feelings to be acknowledged and felt?
- Have you ever been swept away by them? Is something in you afraid of being swept away again? What’s it like to name that and receive Jesus’ compassion for you in that place.
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