Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1
David Tracy, a Roman Catholic theologian, has said, “There is never an authentic disclosure of truth which is not also transformative.”[i] What he means, at least in part, is that the Christian claim on ‘truth’ is hollow if it remains a doctrinal claim apart from a lived experience of transformed lives. And, of course, Jesus places a big exclamation point on this when he calls himself “the way, the truth, the life.” Indicting the religious experts, he shows truth by living it, by becoming our Passover, by going through hell to release us from our own hellish prisons. He shows us the truth by entering in, becoming a human being, into-the-dust of limitation and creatureliness in order to meet us right where we are. Jesus isn’t a concept. No, Jesus lived a life and took a journey that is now ours to take.
As the sun descends beneath the horizon and darkness falls upon the earth, millions of Christians all over the world are celebrating the Resurrection-dawn at Easter Vigil services across the world. Darkness is required for a dawn. You cannot have authentic faith without it. Christianity is, in the end, no happy-clappy, health-and-wealth social club. It is about a transformed community, imaging the Son, walking the pascal way, dying and rising, resisting the violent-coercive-imperialistic way of consumerist culture, and most likely paying the price for it. Humiliation is not an option – it’s an inevitability.
But the breaking dawn invites us to see that all is not doom and gloom. From darkness, the impossible is realized. With the disciples of Jesus scattered to the four winds, afraid to embrace a faith that might require their participation as those transformed by truth, Jesus emerges to a world that must now reckon with a very new reality. This new reality is that conflicts are not won and lost by power, intimidation, or violence. The real battle is won through self-surrender, humiliation, turning the other cheek, loving and blessing and forgiving our neighbor. The real transformation happens as every false self experiences death and resurrection within.
Jesus does not save us from suffering. He saves us from ourselves, which engages us in a process of profound transformation as every part of us that resists God is chipped and stripped away. And while this journey isn’t as pretty as some would like it to be, it is real – a life lived awake and alert, a life lived vulnerably, a life lived with freedom. Read the great stories of the saints and martyrs. You will not find doom and gloom, but joy.
I long for joy. I long for my desires to match God’s desires. I long to live in God’s freedom. And – can I be honest? – when I’m simply indulging myself, I don’t feel very free or joyful. When I’ve wasted a day living out of my avoidant self, when I’ve ruined a conversation living out of my cynical self, when I’ve exhausted myself living out of my achieving self, I’m not really joyful. I may get a laugh or some admiration, but I’m not joyful.
I want to end our journey together with an imaginative exercise which will nurture joy in these final hours of the cruciform night. On this Holy Saturday, I want you to imagine sitting very still in the midst of the darkness. The confusion of Good Friday has passed and the dawn of Easter has not yet emerged. All is quiet. We wait. We listen. All is still.
Can you hear your heart beating? Can you feel your feet on the ground? Can you feel the delight of not having to do a thing at all but sit still, rest, and be?
You’ve fallen into goodness. The goodness is the ground beneath you. The goodness is the dust to which you’ve returned. The goodness is your limitations. The goodness is the body God designed to be yours and yours alone. The goodness is the infinite presence of Jesus, by the Spirit, more near to you than you are to you. The goodness is the transformative work God is doing in the silence of your being without you even knowing it.
You sit here now in the dark with no one to impress, no one to please. In this place, you are simply enough, in Jesus. You are enough.
I want you to imagine every fig-leaved false self dissolving into oneness with Christ, centered in the very core of your being. Christ dwells in your innermost depths, welcoming you. Come. Relax. Enjoy. You are worthy. You are mine.
You hear the words with delight. In the darkness and in the stillness, all is well. Everything he has is yours. You are his beloved son, his beloved daughter. He sees you straight through to your core and smiles, delighting in his child.
You’ve fallen into goodness.
[i] David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1981), p. 78.