It’s the Same Space

One of the problems with our tendency to avoid feeling sorrow is that we miss one of the key blessings Jesus talks about: the blessing of being comforted (Matthew 5:4).

The truth is life is hard.

There are going to be times when you’re going to hurt.

No amount of effort can really protect you from that.

So the question isn’t “will I experience loss?”  Of course you will.  The answer to that question is yes.  You’ll experience loss.  Everyone does.

The real question is, “in your loss, will you experience comfort?”

And that depends.  That depends on whether you avoid the feelings connected to loss or your mask the feelings connected to loss or you allow yourself to truly mourn.

The blessing of feeling the pain, the blessing of mourning, Jesus says, is comfort.  

Not distance from the pain.  Not numbness of the pain. Comfort.

Comfort is something different from the pain that enters the pain-filled place and changes it.

The word Jesus uses (that we translate “comfort”) evokes the picture of a trusted friend coming alongside you and holding our hand.

It’s the same word Jesus uses when He talks about the Holy Spirit.

In this moment of being comforted, something very powerful happens: this place where you feel pain becomes the place where you experience God’s loving presence.  It’s the same place.

I’ve sat with people in deep grief who have said to me “I didn’t even know I could feel this kind of pain.”

It’s like the sorrow has carved out a new place in their heart, created this all new cavity that wasn’t there before.  And this space that pain makes becomes the space that the presence of God can fill.  It’s the same space.

Jesus doesn’t say, “Pain is good.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “Seek sadness.”

But he does say that there is a blessing in mourning – that sorrow carves out new space in our hearts where nothing except the presence of God will help, but that the presence of God will help – and that in our sadness we will be comforted.

[ You can hear the whole sermon, “Why Are You Crying?” here.]

When You Know

Whenever I read this passage I’m struck by John’s crystal clear understanding:

He understands who he’s not:

Are you the Christ?  No. Are you Elijah?  No.  The Prophet?  No.

He understands who he is:

He’s just a voice testifying about Jesus, whose “sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

And he understands his place in the story.

He understands that he’s part of a long line of faithful people who have looked to God in their search for shalom.

What we don’t get to hear is how John came to the place of clarity.   That must have been a fascinating process.

“Miracles may show me the saint, they do not show me how he became a saint: and that is what I want to see. It is not the completed process that intrigues me: it is the process itself… Tell me what was churning in his soul as he battled his way up from selfishness and the allurements of sin to the great heart of God.”

– M. Raymond, O.C.S.O

May God bless your process of understanding of your identity and your place in this great story.


Three Questions Toward the Rebuilding of Trust

How can trust be rebuilt even through failure?
Perhaps its a matter of asking the right questions.
More important than the question,
                  “Can Peter be trusted?” is the question,
                  “Can Jesus be trusted?” 
Jesus chose Peter.  But can Peter be trusted?  
He said, “I’ll never leave you.  I’ll die for you.  Even if everyone else bails, I’ll stay.” 
But then he got scared and he broke trust. 
And yet the relationship between Jesus and Peter, ultimately grows.
It’s not because Peter can be trusted.
It’s because Jesus can. 
More important than the question,
         “Can you trust your child?” is the question,
         “Can your child trust you?”* 
In other words, the way relationships between kids and parents gets stronger – even through failure – is by the parent showing that they are trustworthy even when the kid fails. 
         And an even more important question is this:
                 “Can we trust God?”
So the ultimate question isn’t about Peter or my kids or me or anyone else.
It’s not about our trustworthiness.  It’s really about God’s. 
         Healthy attachment can grow – even through failure –
                  whenever the invitation exists to
                           root the relationship in the
                                    greater strength of Another.  
When my relationship with you isn’t ultimately about me or you, but instead is rooted in God, then there is always hope – even hope for the rebuilding of trust.  Because ultimately, our relationship isn’t about my trustworthiness or yours.  It’s about God’s.  And as we both look to Him for wholeness, our own brokenness can be overcome.  

*Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, Joiner and Nieuhoff