Take The Humble Path (Monday)
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.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Years ago I wrote a book called Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places. It narrates our stories through the story of the Exodus from Egypt, an 11 day journey that took forty years. In other words, it took a day for Israel to leave Egypt, but forty years to get the “Egypt” out of Israel. It always seems to take a lot longer for us to leave what’s behind and claim what’s ahead.
There is often a conflict within me about this. Parts of me want to journey ahead, growing into the person I long to be. Other parts of me resist, still craving the attachments of my past. In the mix, the voice of my true self can get squelched. I can feel lost, stuck, even sad amidst the cacophony of competing voices within me.
Part of my resistance is that I don’t want to say goodbye. I like those old parts of me quite a bit. Some have served me well. I hid behind humor and words early in my life, but it got my somewhere. Part of me was a driven workhorse, and that helped my career. It feels kind of sad saying goodbye – like, I’m saying goodbye to parts of me that served me well, parts of me that knew how to have a good time, parts of me that could outwork the next guy.
There is a grief in this process, isn’t there? When Jesus imagines us coming to the end of ourselves, he’s imagining the death of every little self, every “old self” as St. Paul might say, every false self, even the ones that served us well. I imagine parts of me still in Egypt, still addicted to certain ways of being and living and working that must be freed from their slavery, even if they come kicking and screaming. I imagine an inner conversation with that busy workhorse part of me who reminds me that he’s done the hard work of helping build my career, advance along the way, even write books. But I also imagine Jesus whispering, “Can you rest now and let me lead?”
My wife said recently that she’s seen me change over the years. I used to be a whole lot more anxious and obsessive than I am today. What’s interesting is that there were parts of the old me that she liked (as well as parts she is glad to see growing up.) Truth be told, the couple that fell in love 22 years ago has seen a lot of dying along the way. And with that process, there have been tears of sadness and joy.
Jesus wasn’t trying to play therapist to the disciples when he challenged them to mourn. He was recognizing the reality of switching stories, of transitioning from a life geared toward their own self-fulfillment to a kingdom-life, with all it entails. The next years for those sitting at his feet on that hillside will be tougher than they know. They’ve chosen to enter into a new Story, led by a new (true) self, freed to live and love and serve and even die.
What must you mourn as you leave the old behind? It’s quite alright to like, even to love, old memories, old attachments, old parts of you from the past. But it may also be time to thank them and to say goodbye, to grieve and mourn their loss. The new lies ahead.
Suffering Servant, you knew pain and were well-acquainted with grief. In becoming one of us, you’ve shown such great love and solidarity with our journeys, as well. Thank you for giving me permission to grieve. I know that it is only through tears that I will see your kingdom with new eyes. Amen