Much of God’s provision for us is mysterious, dark, and frustratingly hidden. I know this has been true in my own life, and I suspect it is probably true for many of us. Times when it’s hard to take Jesus at his word when he says, “Ask, and it will be given you.”
Not only now, in this time of seclusion, isolation, and separation, but in many parts of my life it has been tempting (and I use the word tempting with all of its sinister weight) to read the world and not see God’s provision whatsoever. I admit that this is frighteningly easy, at least for me.
Yet, in hindsight all of these situations that I have read as set-backs or crises—graves for my soul and my character—have really in fact been rich times of provision. And always right under my nose. And I am put in mind of these temptation as we continue our Lenten walk together.
It occurs to me that so often it is easy for us to talk about the disciplines we engage during Lent as “curbs”—to use a word that we brothers have used in our Rule to contrast the living reality of our life and the disciplines that form it. We say that the disciplines of our life are not mere curbs. And so then, what are they?
As time goes on I experience them more and more as invitations to a radical reliance on God’s provision. To take Jesus at his word, when he says “Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find.” But this is an awareness that we (frustratingly) cultivate with God’s aid. This awareness requires a risky surrender to God, and a deep, abiding trust that God is not out to get us. God is not trying to lay before us impossible tests of our character. I know that is sometimes easy to see God in that way.
For that reason, there is a shocking beauty for me in the horrifying image on the cross that we see throughout our worship space. If this is where God deigned to enthrone God’s self, God isn’t out to get us.
But Jesus tells us, if we trust him we are God’s children. Not God’s students. Not God’s miserable slaves, but God’s children. And even more so here at SSJE, in this particular charism. We are invited to enter into seeing ourselves not only as God’s children, but as God’s intimate friends.
You may have noticed that for the past three Thursdays I have been preaching from sparser notes; a less composed text in front of me. This has become part of my peculiar Lenten observance this year. A decision to stand outside of my comfort zone, and to surrender the control I seek over my language so that the Spirit might speak Her word with more freshness and urgency. To give over to God my reliance on the ways a facility with language has—while indeed a gift—also tended to be a coping mechanism to hide (what I perceive as) my deficiencies.
And so in this small way, I try to take Jesus at his word as I pray with these readings and ask for a word, trusting that God will give it.
Because so much of life is like a long Lent, this awareness takes cultivation. The work of stepping outside the things that make us comfortable—the wildernesses into which the Spirit drives us. And because so much of what assaults each of us makes life very alienating, this requires a brave openness to God with all of who we are, trusting God desires us. That God has named us each his children. That God has named us his intimate friends.
Because so often our prayers get answered in ways we can’t see (or might not see this side of eternity), Lent invites us to lay down our expectations and judgements about the provision we receive. And I know I can only attempt such a surrender by entering and resting in the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising—his hallowing of the grave as a bed of hope for God’s people.
Then we can know more deeply that Jesus is not in fact lying.
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.