Suffering With Christ

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

In Dappled Things, Tonita M. Helton writes about the intersection of the Cross and her mother’s horrific death from cancer.

We are all given a cross that we are bound to carry, whether willing or unwilling. Most of us are left to offer smaller sacrifices, like headaches, stubbed toes, the occasional cut, or the frustration of traffic or a difficult job or co-worker. And many, perhaps most, of us reject even those smaller opportunities. But, for the rare and truly blessed soul, God sometimes sends acute suffering, in whatever form, along with an invitation to crawl up on the Cross with him and, in so doing, help him to save the world. For those who know – really know – what to do with this opportunity, the growth and purification they merit for their own souls and the graces that are showered upon the world as a result of their offerings are enormous.

Perhaps the difficulty we have with this teaching is that the connection is hidden from us this side of the grave. It was sometimes hard for me to see why God, if he really loved my mother, couldn’t just give her a break every now and then, and protect her from the chemical burn, or the mutant bacteria, or the wretched nausea, or the month-long bout of constipation, or the edema, or the pancreatic malfunction, or the gallbladder pain and surgery, or the cancer itself, or at least the nightmares she had of demons attacking her. You see, there is often no clear line drawn for us between this particular suffering and that particular soul. Even so, there remains a bright line drawn across the ages and it reminds us boldly that Christ did not suffer in vain and it is his revolutionary mandate that neither must we. It remains our destiny to suffer because mankind fell into sin, but even that suffering can and should be redeemed by uniting it with his

Participation in Christ’s suffering is immense honour and joy. It’s hard to see, hard to accept. But once seen, we discover the immense grace He has bestowed upon us.

Don’t get me wrong. We ought not pursue suffering. Neither ought we wallow in it. But when it comes, and it will, just as the Cross was powerful, our suffering can be as well if we will suffer with Christ.

Five Minute Friday: Reach

reaching-handsMy spiritual director once said, in response to my queries about how to respond to a roommate who was taking advantage of me, “Remember, you are both reaching for the same salvation.” I’ve tried to keep that in mind. We’re all reaching for the same salvation. Even those without faith reach for what they don’t know.

My heart breaks for atheists and anti-theists in a way it doesn’t for anyone else. Of course, I hate the divisions in the Church. Those too are heartbreaking. But to be without the experience of God’s faithfulness, the hope of the fulfillment of His promises, the joy of knowing to Whom we belong — that must be emptiness. An emptiness I can’t imagine.

My life has been full of suffering. It has also been overflowing with gifts and joy. When I snapped on that day, faith was already loaded. God was more real to me that the dimly seen figures through the screen door. They were the cotton balls from my dreams that knocked me about, the ones God used to slow my descent and keep me alive. I had to learn to accept that they too were people reaching for the same salvation as I. I am very, very fortunate that He has always reached down to me and my hands have never stopped reaching to Him. What I need and want the more than anything else is to continue reaching up to my Heavenly Father and remain safely in His arms.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Does God Want His Children To Suffer?

Lazurus come forth rembrandtSometimes I think God decided to teach me about suffering. Then I realize I must require an extremely extensive course because I’m still learning. I wish suffering was easy. Easy to do. Easy to explain. In Loved As If, I use memories, vignettes, and letters to/conversations with God precisely because stories express the truth in a way that our hearts understand, just as we understand that it is fitting for the wicked queen to be punished after her many attempts to kill Snow White. Our hearts then inform our minds. (I used to think it worked the other way. In matters of faith, it’s usually heart first, then mind.)

Certainly our minds have a place in understanding suffering. Suffering must be reasonable. And it is, once we understand there’s so much more going on than we imagine. Recently, I’ve discovered Matt Chandler and The Village Church. From what I’ve read thus far, they’re not afraid to read the entire Bible and plumb the depths of God’s revelation. They are especially adept at plumbing the depths of suffering:

John 11:1-44 is an interesting passage to observe in relation to this truth. John recounts the death of Lazarus and the response of Jesus. I am always struck by the complex beauty of the first word of verse six, “so” or “therefore.” As verse five states, Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus and “so/therefore” He delayed. What was the result of this delay? Lazarus’ death. That sounds unloving on the surface. We think the text should read, “Jesus loved them, so He hurried to them,” but instead of hastening to help, He waited. Jesus delayed, and Lazarus died because He loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. His delay does not disprove His love; instead, it demonstrates greater depths of it.

Even more startling are the words of Christ in verse 15. After confirming that Lazarus died, He stated, “I am glad I was not there.” The phrase “I am glad” is a translation of the Greek word χαίρω (chairo), which is elsewhere rendered rejoice, delight or take pleasure in. Christ is saying, “I rejoice that I was not there” or “I am pleased that I was not there.” Christ delighted in a delay that allowed a death and brought about such distress? He did this because He loved the one who died and those who wept?

A short and simple answer simply won’t cut it here. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, His disciples and Lazarus so much that He delayed, allowing Lazarus to die. He then rejoiced in the fact that He was not there to prevent it. Did Jesus then want Lazarus to die? In some sense, we have to say yes to take the text seriously. Jesus wanted Lazarus to die and Mary and Martha to experience great sorrow.

I highly recommend the entire article.

A Place Called Home

Ribbons of colour, patches of light, notes of a once sung song

Traces of old days hover outside my view

I’m always reaching, it’s not very far, but it never comes into my grasp

There is a place I know, called home

I wrote those words before I knew how to long for what God has for me: the ability to live in this world and, ultimately, a place called home. It’s not necessary to suffer horrors in order to learn how to long for what God offers. Kate Moatung’s post at  perfectly captures the reason we all are, or ought to be, homesick.

Faery Tales: The Magpie’s Nest

I recall my Papa reading Heinrich Hoffman’s Struwwelpeter stories to me in German when I was very young. Somewhere between three and four, I learned to to read and began consuming faery tales. Since then, I’ve read faery tales from all over the world. Had I been less timid, I would have written my senior thesis on them.

Like parables, faery tales speak truth to the heart. They tell of that which is fitting, just, real when we want to believe bad things don’t happen, there are never any negative consequences, the “good” are (or ought to be) exempt from suffering. Faery tales also teach us who we are, invite us to take a closer look at ourselves and ask, “Where do I fit in the story?” The Magpie’s Nest, an English faery tale, is one of my all time favourites. Somehow, I hope to use an excerpt in Loved As If:

Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme

And monkeys chewed tobacco,

And hens took snuff to make them tough,

And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!

All the birds of the air came to the magpie and asked her to teach them how to build nests. For the magpie is the cleverest bird of all at building nests. So she put all the birds round her and began to show them how to do it. First of all she took some mud and made a sort of round cake with it.

“Oh, that’s how it’s done,” said the thrush; and away it flew, and so that’s how thrushes build their nests.

Then the magpie took some twigs and arranged them round in the mud.

“Now I know all about it,” says the blackbird, and off he flew; and that’s how the blackbirds make their nests to this very day.

Then the magpie put another layer of mud over the twigs.

“Oh that’s quite obvious,” said the wise owl, and away it flew; and owls have never made better nests since.

After this the magpie took some twigs and twined them round the outside.

“The very thing!” said the sparrow, and off be went; so sparrows make rather slovenly nests to this day.

Well, then Madge Magpie took some feathers and stuff and lined the nest very comfortably with it.

“That suits me,” cried the starling, and off it flew; and very comfortable nests have starlings.

So it went on, every bird taking away some knowledge of how to build nests, but, none of them waiting to the end. Meanwhile Madge Magpie went on working and working without, looking up till the only bird that remained was the turtle-dove, and that hadn’t paid any attention all along, but only kept on saying its silly cry “Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o.”

At last the magpie heard this just as she was putting a twig across.

So she said: “One’s enough.”

But the turtle-dove kept on saying: “Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o.”

Then the magpie got angry and said: “One’s enough I tell you.”

Still the turtle-dove cried: “Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o.”

At last, and at last, the magpie looked up and saw nobody near her but the silly turtle-dove, and then she got rare angry and flew away and refused to tell the birds how to build nests again.

Five Minute Friday: Change

I stepped into the swirling water, though I don’t like swimming in the ocean. But this was a smaller pond, controlled, with an oh so comforting deck – like a pool. The rushing water swiftly carried me away from the shore. Dark shapes loomed at the edge of my vision. I turned my head. Huge, black, metal, goose-neck pipes thrust above the waves. Any pipe’s maw was big enough to swallow me in darkness. Every pipe’s side was hard enough so that the rushing waves might crush me against it. They were spread across the water, little space between them. I’ll be killed. The rushing waters pushed me towards closer and closer to the pipes. Suddenly, I was amid them, swerving between them like a pinball that had been swatted just right. Then I was on the other side, another deck in reach. I pulled myself out, began to hurry along the boardwalk to return to my starting point; that’s where I belonged. Something in the window of one of the shops caught my eye. I stopped to look. I changed my mind, Perhaps I stay here and explore. I opened my eyes to a new morning.

This too is resurrection on earth. The controlled sea change that feels impossible to survive and then there we are, alive and in a new place. A change of heart. A change of mind. A change that takes us so far from what we know ought to be but leaves us with enough curiosity, strength, joy, hope to explore new places, discover new hopes.

It’s preparation for a face-to-Face someday when change will be eternity. When what we are to be is revealed and we will be truly happy for all the practice in the rushing waters.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

God’s Faithfulness: Immediate Needs

copyright: http://www.faithbookart.com/index.html#/directory-home/

copyright: http://www.faithbookart.com/index.html#/directory-home/

By the end of the day, yesterday, my immediate needs had been met. I can even afford to go to the doctor I need to see this month. God remains faithful even when the seas are raging.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you to my benefactors. Please continue to pray for me. Please know, I continue to pray for you.

Changes

I’ve changed my donation page to reflect the difficult time I’m experiencing:

Right now, things are beyond tight financially: I’m skimping on medicine and food, and struggling to keep my apartment. There is hope of a good job that would address my financial needs. For now, I will be applying any donations to making it through this cataclysmic time. Thanks for your help. (I do continue to write.)

Please pray that God will soon send a resolution and please know, i would be most grateful for any assistance anyone might give. Thanks.

Mocking or Repentant: The Choice Hides in Plain Sight

Heather King gets suffering and sacrifice, gets that we choose to be the mocking thief or the repentant one in this world where polemic, ideology, and comfort distract us from what’s really going on:

So we walk alone, and yet we walk with Christ, and that means we walk with, are inextricably bound to, every other human being who lives now, ever has lived, and ever will live. To believe that we are all deeply, intricately connected, and that our actions have eternal consequences, is to operate from an entirely different basis than politics. We operate from a basis of redemptive suffering, which was what MLK, Jr., operated from and why he was assassinated. It was why Christ was tortured to death. Redemptive suffering subverts every possible order. It upsets people terribly. It enrages and unsettles. It’s radical: gets to the root of. We like to think of ourselves as radical but when push comes to shove, we’re not radical at all. We’re lost sheep. We want things to be pleasant. We want to be “ok.”

Read the entire piece.

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