Eight years ago this month is when my conversion started. Sort of. “Conversion” begins at each person’s beginning, and ends somewhere between here and eternity. But eight years ago, I was 19, and not terribly interested in someone dressed as I am right now sagely dismissing my crisis.
I had reached a breaking point. I was out in the middle of the night, wandering the college campus, anxious and confused. I’d had a basically hostile attitude toward religion for several years, but my own sense of being, of purpose, the great “why?” echoing along the canyon walls of human hearts…my old answers just weren’t working anymore. I could no longer justify my existence through my own happiness, because why should I care about my own happiness? Everything was empty, and death was not far from my thoughts.
Out of desperation, I prayed. To no one, or anyone, I prayed. I tearfully offered my uncertainty, my instability, my weakness, hoping for something to alleviate it. Some assurance from heaven, whoever’s version of it existed. And what I got was…nothing. No warmth, no light, no angelsong. Cold, dark, silent nothing. But this Nothing was greater, more powerful, than anything I’d experienced up until that point. I felt broken. I felt destroyed. I felt like a demolished city, burnt to the ground. And it was horrifying. And it was good. Because the abject admission of weakness and vulnerability I encountered in this experience was the great clearing of the brush, the great pouring out of old and perishing things. I was shattered, and I was made new.
Luke 19:41-44 and Rev. 5:1-10
How poignant it is that we have this account of Jesus’ tears over the city of Jerusalem as our gospel lesson today.
It was just two days ago that two Palestinian men entered a synagogue in Jerusalem with butcher knives and a gun, killing four Jewish rabbis who were at prayer, and a police officer who answered the call for help. Tensions have been high in Jerusalem in recent weeks as Palestinians and Jewish Israelis clash over control of the sacred area of the old city known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. In the past few weeks, two mosques have been set ablaze in arson attacks in the West Bank, leaving copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in ashes. Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the synagogue attack by ordering the demolition of the attackers’ homes, as well as the acceleration of the destruction of homes of Palestinians who carried out earlier attacks. And so the cycle of violence and retribution that has plagued Jerusalem and the Middle East for centuries continues.