Passover: A Time for Celebration?

Deborah Beach Giordano
© September 11, 2017

Exodus 12:1-14 ~ told by Deborah

While they were still in Egypt, God told Moses and Aaron: “This month will be the beginning of the year for you.

“Tell all the people of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to get a lamb for each household…. and keep it until the fourteenth day; then all of the Israelites will assemble together and slaughter it at sunset.

“They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

“They shall eat the lamb that same night. It is to be roasted over the fire, whole, served with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

“Don’t leave any leftovers; whatever remains in the morning you shall burn.

“You are to eat it dressed for departure; your shoes on, your coat buttoned, and your bags packed; and eat it quickly.

“It is the passover of the Lord because I will pass through Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land, human beings and animals alike; this is the judgment I pronounce on all the gods of Egypt: I am the Lord.

“The blood will be a sign on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and you’ll be safe when I strike the land of Egypt.

“This day will be a day of remembrance for you. You will celebrate it as a festival to the Lord perpetually; you will celebrate it for all generations to come.”

That Night

“Feast on lamb with your families … and that night I, the Lord your God, will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, human beings and animals alike; but will pass over your homes.”

As I read this passage I remembered an evening several years ago. We had hosted a particularly delightful party at our house in honor of a friend’s 40th birthday; there was lots of laughter, good conversation, and fun that lasted long into the night. We went to bed filled with good cheer and good food. 

The next morning we were awakened by a phone call. John’s cousin Gianna had died during that night as she gave birth to a baby daughter. 

We were stunned into wordlessness; beyond shock, beyond tears. While we had been laughing, one of the kindest and gentlest of souls had been breathing her last. It was so incongruous, and just wrong. I felt somehow guilty, tainted: how could we have been celebrating in the midst of death? How could we be rejoicing at a time of sorrow?

Passover Celebration

I imagine the Israelites on that first Passover night, gathered together with their families as the angel of death stormed over the land, wantonly destroying the eldest of every creature. Can they have looked at the faces of their children and rejoiced, when all around them others — who loved as deeply, and hurt as profoundly — were suffering grief and despair? 

Can they have found cause to celebrate, knowing that the doting new parents across the street would awaken to a silent cradle, that the little girl next door would desperately tug at the cold and lifeless hand of her beloved grandfather? Could they have been joyful when, in the field outside, a ewe nuzzled the lamb who lay so still and silent, a white dove circled her fallen mate, and the hillsides echoed with the wailing of the wolves mourning their dead? 

Inexplicable Grace

How can we sing the Lord’s song
in an alien land? 
~ Psalm 137:4

No. I do not think it was a festival of rejoicing, but of recognition. As Death raged outside, sweeping its victims away in a bloody tide, without regard for guilt or innocence, the Israelite families sheltered together, fully aware that it could just as readily have been their lives that were taken. Only some inexplicable grace had kept them safe. Unmerited, unearned, miraculous.

This was not a celebration of the suffering of their neighbors, but a thanks-giving for their own salvation — and for the awareness this night of destruction had brought: to remain would be to risk almost-certain death; they had to escape. It was not safe to stay in Egypt.

Somehow they had missed that fact. The pattern of illness and decay, of harsh labor and slow disintegration, had become normal. Death was familiar; it was expected, anticipated, accepted. Even desired.

They did not know what it was to live.

The Gods of Egypt

The Israelites had struggled, suffered, and perished by the hundreds, perhaps hundreds of thousands, enslaved in unending, wearying work. Great pyramids were constructed as tombs for the pharaohs, mausoleums to preserve their bodies and enshrine their spirits. To the laborers far down the food chain, uninitiated in the religion, the gods of the Egyptians traded only in death — for those who worshiped them, and for those who built their temples. 

It was as if the divine spirit that was unleashed on the Egyptians that Passover night was their own god, turning against his own people, bestowing the only gift that a god of death could give. Whatever it was, and whatever the cause, the message was clear: in order to survive, the Israelites had to get away.

On that night several thousand individuals became a community, aware of their shared hopes and fears; the weak discovered their strength, the worthless realized their value. A new people was born out of a culture of death. The God of the living made Godself known.

Remember!

As the night begins God informs Moses and Aaron that this event must be embedded in the national consciousness; it must be celebrated each and every year, down through the generations. The divine mandate is given: Passover must never be forgotten. 

Passover must never be forgotten. It is a consecration of life’s value and extraordinary potential. It proclaims hope and new beginnings even in the midst of terrible troubles. It is the recognition that in the midst of life, death swirls around us — but it is not the end; death’s authority is temporary and temporal. God’s power to lead us to life is far greater than all that would enslave and degrade us.

Passover is the celebration of the birth of the Jewish people. It commemorates the beginning of their long and difficult journey to becoming the People of the Living God, the journey that we Christians aspire to be a part of. 

A Passover Mentality

Our tradition has claimed that what we know as “the Lord’s Supper” / the Eucharist was first a Passover (Seder) meal celebrated by our Lord Jesus with his disciples. To understand our Great Feast within that context is to honor the fact that our Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived, and died a Jew: “they” are our sisters and brothers. It is also a warning that we, like the Israelites in Egypt, can be enslaved by our culture: demeaned and disempowered as being “of no value or importance.” It is a statement of faith in God’s lasting power to save and restore.

When we take the Bread and Wine standing up, with our shoes on and our coats buttoned, we affirm our readiness to respond to God’s call immediately; it is also a humble admission that we may be headed the wrong way — and are willing to turn around, and to go as the Beloved leads us. This very day.

Perhaps the most important aspect of such a “Passover mentality” is a grateful heart. We come to the Table thankful for the life we have been given, the good we have enjoyed, the love we have known. And we remember, tenderly, those who are no longer present; their memories a blessing. 

Let us give thankful praise to the God of the Passover, who leads us on the path of life.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

It has been suggested that the god we worship is the god we get. As presented in this short-form version of the Passover, the Egyptians’ obsession (idolizing/worship) of death appears to have turned against them. What might that mean for our culture? What do we idolize that might turn on us and destroy us? 

On a personal level, who is God for you? What is the defining characteristic of the One you worship?

 

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The Fire on the Hillside

Deborah Beach Giordano
© September 4, 2017

Exodus 3:1-6 ~ told by Deborah

While shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep, Moses led them through the wilderness to Horeb, the mountain of God. And there the angel of God appeared to him in a fiery blaze from within the dry brush.

Moses saw that it was on fire but didn’t burn up. He said, “That’s amazing! I’ve got to go over there and take a closer look at that, and see why the brush doesn’t burn up.”

When God saw that he had gone out of his way to see it, God called to him out of the brush, “Moses, Moses!”

And he answered, “Here I am.”

God said, “Don’t come any closer! Take your shoes off, because you’re standing on holy ground.” God went on, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

And Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Fire!!!

Yikes. Moses and the burning bush: that’s an unpleasant tale to tell during this Summer of Conflagration, when vast swaths of our forests and open spaces are aflame or have burned. Reading the passage I say to myself: Moses certainly should notice a fire on the hillside “and go out of his way to see it” — and put it out before it spreads. 

For those of us living in the dry western United States, fire in an open space is a bad thing. A very bad thing.

Who is This?

What are we to make of an image of God that provokes alarm and even outright fear? Isn’t God our Friend, our Comforter, our Shelter in times of trouble? Who is this who announces Godself with flames — and later, as we know, with pillars of smoke and fire? Anyone who has seen those kinds of pillars rising on a hillside or from within a forest knows they are terrible to behold: signs of fierce destruction and great danger. 

Yet for the Israelites in the time of Moses, columns of smoke and flames served as evidence of divine guidance and protection as they trekked across the wilderness, and fire was understood as God’s primary manifestation — even though this ferocious power could break the boundaries and turn against them (see Numbers chapters 11 and 16). 

For the people of Israel, “to walk in the Way of the Lord” was like keeping a pet tiger: at any time it might get loose and devour those around it. It was impossible to control. 

And that’s scary. It is an alarming concept for most of us; it isn’t the way we are used to thinking about God. It is a vision of the Almighty as dangerous, wild, and free. Unmanageable. Impatient. Impetuous.

The God of flame and smoke cannot be controlled or contained. It engulfs and overwhelms. This extraordinary power can strike without warning; illuminating, igniting, inspiring — wherever — and whomever — It will.

Fearful and Glorious

The fiery aspect of God helps us to understand “the fear of the Lord” as a term for worship. It describes the human experience of the Utterly-Other: of divine majesty; a recognition of the awesome power of God that eclipses all that mere mortals can achieve or imagine; a terror-provoking encounter with the Ultimate that transforms into “a peace that surpasses all understanding.”

This “fear” is not servile cringing, but awe-beyond-astonishment: what philosopher Rudolf Otto described as an encounter with an “awe-inspiring mystery.” It is fascination, enchantment: we are overwhelmed, gloriously aware; caught up in the Presence of something far greater than ourselves.

Unmanageable

It was the experience of the fiery aspect of the Divine that sparked Moses’ curiosity (“I need to see what that is,”) and set him off on a journey that changed his life and the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people who followed. The encounter both terrified and energized him: here was a God of great strength and long history, one that could be relied upon; a Power that warmed and illuminated…. but could also overwhelm — and even destroy.

For the rest of his life Moses would struggle with the enthralling Presence that spoke to him from within the flames. It was a rocky relationship filled with disagreements and disappointments and difficulties — and sometimes Moses’ temper got the best of him. In the end, the great Task was left to be finished by another. 

Moses’ story isn’t one of “happily ever after”: it is complex, complicated, uncomfortable. It holds no promises that a life of faith will be one of simplicity and ease. Instead, it tells of a God who surprises, shocks, and alarms those who are called to serve. 

It is the story of an utterly unpredictable God.

And For Us?

So what does it mean to us? How does this testimony about an unpredictable God of fire and smoke relate to our experience and belief in One who is gracious and merciful, loving and compassionate?

Or does the question itself reveal our temptation to confine God; to narrow the Divine’s capabilities and characteristics to a few familiar and comforting aspects? It has become a cultural pattern to view the world in the least generous way, as one thing or the other: it is either/or, this/that, black/white — and never both/and. The God of fire and smoke destroys these false limitations and breaks down arbitrary divisions: this God transforms a stuttering shepherd into an inspiring leader; turns a sea into dry land; creates a single people from a collection of runaway slaves.

When God showed the fullness of Godself to Moses, it was all goodness. And the revelation was accompanied by an assertion of autonomy: God will do as God chooses, not in obedience to any demands we may make or regulations we set forth. God cannot be controlled or contained:

Moses said, “Please, I beg You, show me Your glory!” And God said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim My Name to you; and I will be gracious to whomever I will be gracious, and I will show compassion on whomever I will show compassion.”
~ Exodus 33:18-19

The God of fire and smoke, the God of the Exodus, is also the God of Extraordinary Grace and Abundant Compassion whose power can transform lives and change the world. God is not either/or, but All in All.

May we have the courage to, like Moses, “turn aside” (from our assumptions) and see the awesome, extraordinary, glorious power and grace of our God.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise:
Where do you experience the power of God?

 

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Deborah Beach Giordano
© August 28, 2017

Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and his sons: “I now establish My covenant with you and with your descendants and with every living creature — the birds, the domesticated and the wild animals; every living creature on earth: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. 

“Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. When-ever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” 

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between Me and all life on the earth.

The Rainbow Promise

“Never again.” 

The Scriptures tell us that God gave God’s word that the earth would never again be destroyed by floods as happened in the time of Noah. The divine Promise was extended to all humanity, to the birds, the bees, the animals; to all creatures, great and small in perpetuity. The pledge was repeated three times — and sealed with a rainbow. So, by rights, we shouldn’t have to worry.

But that simply isn’t true.

Oh, we could let it pass on a technicality: the whole world may not have been washed away — but a significant percentage of it has come close, most recently in the catastrophic flooding in Texas. We can add to that a terrible litany of other water-devastation events including those in Louisiana, in Japan, and the unspeakable horrors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed over 250,000 lives. 

Say what you will: it is as if the whole earth has been destroyed. 

As If

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? It doesn’t require a planetary tidal wave: our hearts are troubled when even a small part of our world is in crisis; we grieve when other members of humanity suffer and die; we are distraught over the pets that are lost or abandoned, the farm animals that are drowned, the wildlife that is helplessly swept away. 

We weep at the loss of homes and livelihoods, the destruction of communities and towns, the almost-unimaginable devastation left behind; we watch and we pray. And — even before the waters recede, we rise up: we take action, we donate bedding and blankets and bandages, we send camping gear and canoes and whatever money we can spare. We respond to the deluge with an outpouring of compassion.

We refuse to be wiped out; we will not allow all life to be destroyed by the waters of a flood. We will speak — and embody — the saving truth: our planet and its creatures are precious, all modeled on a sacred design; worth moving heaven and earth to save, to comfort, to restore.

Calling Out

Though mighty floods rise up against us, we shall not be removed. We call out to God, reminding the Holy One of the ancient Promise. And we become that Promise.

In our compassion and passionate determination we create a bulwark, a defense that resists and repels what would destroy us. The holy nature within us — the divine spirit in which we live and move and have our being — lifts us up, strengthens us, and empowers us. 

We, who were “made a little lower than angels,” embody the sacred Covenant in the work of our hands and the love in our hearts — in our fierce commitment to rescue operations, in our generosity, in our care for the injured, our protection of the vulnerable, our shelter of the homeless, and our respect for the bodies of the dead.

The cynical and disillusioned will demand: “Where is your God in this?” Look around.

The Rainbow

Before the rainbow appears in the clouds, holy compassion streams forth to save, to comfort, to bless. The Light of grace shines brightly even in the darkest night, even in the midst of the most ferocious storm. We need not be afraid or despairing, for God is with us and within us, always.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes
which look with Christ’s compassion on the world
Yours are the feet
with which He is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands
with which He is to bless the people now.
    ~ St. Teresa of Avila

Go forth and do good!

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

 

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Watch Your Mouth!

Deborah Beach Giordano
© August 21, 2017

Matthew 15:10-20 ~ retold by Deborah

Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Pay attention, this is important: it isn’t what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth.”

Later his disciples told him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard what you said?”

“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” Jesus said, “Let them be; they are blind guides. And when the blind lead the blind, they’ll both end up falling into a pit.”

But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”

Jesus said, “Don’t you understand? Can’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes through the stomach and ends up in the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and that defiles your soul.

“Because the heart is the source of wickedness and deceit, hateful plans, murder, envy, contempt and conceit, theft, lies, slander. These debase and corrupt a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does no harm to the soul.”

Isn’t it Obvious?

Peter said, “Explain this parable to us.”

Oh, Peter, for heaven’s sake, what’s not to get? How can you mistake Jesus’ straightforward statement about the power of words for “a parable” — as if it is a riddle to be solved? 

Isn’t it obvious that what we say matters? Especially in these days of verbal assaults and angry accusations, we can readily see that what is said can hurt and wound and destroy.

Sticks and Stones

Despite the ancient adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” we’ve all been hurt by words at one time or another. What we eat may lead to indigestion, but labels and judgments, snide comments, hateful remarks, smirks and sneers can leave lasting marks.

We straighten our shoulders and lift our chins, attempting to be brave and unconcerned: “They shall not pull me down.” And yet words — the cynicism and sarcasm, the catcalls and criticism — sting our hearts like grains of sand blown by a windstorm. It is death by a thousand cuts. (Sarcasm is literally “to tear the flesh.”)

There are those who use that terrible knowledge with the intention of cutting down, shutting up, shaming, defaming, and demeaning. Words, from the mouths of the hateful, become weapons.

But That’s Not It

It is clear, as Jesus says, that our words hold great power: what we say can harm and corrupt, and even destroy others.

Except that’s not what he’s saying.

Angry, hateful, judgmental words are like verbal boomerangs. They turn against the speaker. When we condemn and demean others, we’re poisoning ourselves. 

Our words are, in some important way, our destiny. Our lips speak our truth: the reality of who we are. The barbs we hurl at others betray our inner nature: the hate, the accusations, the malice — we are describing the condition of our own soul.

What comes out of our mouth comes from the heart: our words are ourselves. When we insult and revile and condemn others, we’re giving vent to our interior corruption, like the stench of rotting garbage. With each repeated vile remark, each hateful comment, the evil grows deeper and begins to overwhelm all else.

Trash accumulates.

Defiled

Jesus said, “It isn’t what goes into your mouth, but
what comes out of your mouth that defiles you.”

Jesus warns us to pay attention to what we say — not so we won’t hurt other people’s feelings (although that’s important), but so we don’t defile ourselves. It is significant that Lord chooses the word “defile” (especially considering that this is a teaching about language!); it means corrupted, filthy, contaminated by something so vile that it excludes the person from entering the temple of God. You might substitute the word “unholy.”

“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

How do we dare to use “unclean lips” to pray to the Beloved?

The Power of Speech

Yes, words can hurt. They can wound and tear at the hearts of those we insult and degrade, but they do more — and more lasting — damage to ourselves. 

“What goes into the mouth goes through the stomach and out into the sewer;” but what comes out of the mouth can turn our hearts into septic tanks, contaminating our spirits and defiling our souls. We need to be ever-mindful of what we say as well as what we do.

It is so easy to overlook our own misdeeds. Cleanse me of my hidden faults. Don’t let me be arrogant, smug in my sins — don’t let them control me. Then I will be well on the Way, free from all that can drag me down. Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:12-14

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Consider this:

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
    ~ author unknown

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I didn’t notice…

You had been to the barber
but I didn’t notice
until later
seeing
your ear
perfectly
outlined,
your neck
shaved
bare
and vulnerable
as an infant

or a man
condemned
to the guillotine;

all the while
you sat
straight-backed
and smiling
ignoring
the hundred
severed shards
that slipped past
your collar
prickling

incessant
insistent
maddening
demanding relief;

crying
for the mercy
of release.

You sat
quietly
yearning
for freedom
imprisoned
in a hair shirt
but I didn’t notice.

Deborah Beach Giordano
August 19, 2017

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Psalm for a Troubled People

Deborah Beach Giordano
© August 14, 2017

Psalm 90 ~ interpreted by Deborah

Almighty God,
in You we live and move and have our being.
Before the mountains arose,
before the seas brought forth life,
from everlasting to everlasting, You are.

When we die, You return our bodies to dust,
saying, “Have some perspective, you mortals.”

For You a thousand years pass in the blink of an eye,
or like a night of sleeping.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like poppies that bloom in the morning, full of life and color;
in the evening their heads droop and their petals are scattered. 

Laying claim to Your authority,
we have placed ourselves in the Judgment Seat,
disregarding the demands of mercy and compassion. 

Our uncontrolled aggression rises up against us;
its horrifying visage stares us in the face.
Our boundless hatred and unending desire for revenge
overwhelms us;
we are consumed by our anger. 

You have made plain to us all the evils we have done;
no secret can be hidden from Your Light.
We are destroying ourselves with our rage,
filling our lives with sorrow and sighing.

We may live seventy years or so,
perhaps eighty, if our health endures;
even then these are soon over.
How can we be so foolish as to waste them?

Who considers the strength of anger?
Wrath can kill and destroy;
its deathly power contaminating all it touches. 

Teach us that our time here is short,
so we may dedicate ourselves
to loving and serving You. 

Turn our hearts, O Gracious One!
How long must this continue?
Have compassion on Your children! 

Let us find contentment each day in Your faithful love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our lives.

May we live in peace
for as many days as we have dwelled in anger;
may our world be alight with compassion
for as many years as it has burned with hate.

Let Your love show forth in our lives,
and its glorious power upon generations to come.
Strengthen us, O Holy Beloved,
that we remain faithful to the task which lies ahead,
and let our work be a success
— O let our work be a success!

Amen.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Reflect on this Scripture passage:

You’ve been told, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8

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Deborah Beach Giordano
© August 7, 2017

Genesis 32:23-30: told by Deborah

Preparing for a confrontation with Esau and his troops, Jacob sent his family across the river, along with all of his possessions, but he spent the night by himself — and a man wrestled with him until dawn.

When the man realized that he couldn’t overcome Jacob, he struck him on the hip, spraining it. Then he said, “Let me go; it’s nearly morning.”

But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go, unless you bless me.”

So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

“You will no longer be called Jacob,” the man said, “but Israel, for you have strived with God and with people, and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”

And he said, “Do you need to ask?” And he blessed him.

So Jacob called the place Peni-El (Face-of-God), saying, “Because I have seen God face-to-face, and survived.”

Prevailing

After their lengthy (and inconclusive) wrestling match, the man conferred upon Jacob a new name. He would no longer be Jacob, but Israel: having “contended against both God and human beings and prevailed.” 

Jacob didn’t win the bout, but he wasn’t overcome, either. It is enough, apparently, to wrestle with God and survive. 

I’m reminded of the aeronautical credo: “Any landing you can walk away from is a success.” And so we can say that Jacob succeeded. Even though he limped away.

It was, in truth, an act of supreme courage — born out of supreme terror. There in the darkness, bracing for the arrival of Esau and his 400 troops, Jacob knew he was facing an impending disaster; possibly the wholesale slaughter of his family and his own painful death at the hands of the brother he had cheated those many years ago.

And so he prayed. I imagine he prayed as he had never prayed before: with panic-fueled earnestness and blatant honesty. 

There were no humble supplications, no sugary endearments and whinging pleas, no false proclamations of faith, but a fierce, gritty, sweaty, utterly authentic encounter with That Which Is. 

Jacob confronted God with his anguish, his confusion, his fears, his regrets; he grappled with God over his real-life lived situation, unvarnished, unadorned. “Here is how it is with me. Now, in the midst of all that is, where are You?”

The Question

This is a cry and a challenge — as daring as that of the Israelites who will later demand, on their long journey through the wilderness, “Is God with us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7) It is a scary question, a frightful question, a risky question; one we hardly want to know the answer to. 

Is God for us or against us? The wandering Israelites merely say out loud what we all wonder from time to time: Where is God in this? Is God in this? Is there a God at all?

We struggle with our belief in a “good God,” in the face of suffering, disasters, disease, illness, poverty and despair. We recite encouraging Scriptures, we think hopeful thoughts, we look toward a bright new day (“maybe tomorrow”), we keep busy. Such acts can lift our spirits and accomplish many good things — but The God Question remains.

Even if we could manage to ignore it, the challenge is repeatedly thrown out at us by those who doubt or deny a Greater Source: “Why didn’t your God prevent this?” “Where is this loving God you talk about?” “Why didn’t He heal that illness?” “Why does your God allow the innocent to suffer?”

Good questions, one and all.

In response we can speak of free will, of the human capacity to choose for good or ill; we can proclaim the mystery of faith: that, in some unfathomable way and unknown place and time, all will be well. The fact is: in many cases — in all cases — we simply do not know why things turn out as they do. And, in our humanness, we grieve, we suffer, we weep, we worry.

And sometimes we scream and cry and curse the day and shriek and rage at God.

And that’s ok. 

Meeting Our Match

God cannot be broken or beaten or chased away. Honest, earthy, ferocious truth-speaking will not surprise or shock or offend the One Who Knows Us. In fact we might say, based on Jacob’s experience, that our most passionate, authentic prayers — spoken from the depths of our being — bring us nearer, as if we are wrestling with God. It is as if the Holy One is struggling with us, intimately, skin to skin, muscle to muscle, as if with one accord.

That’s essential to remember when we enter into prayer: we needn’t be afraid to tell the truth. The Beloved will not turn away, no matter what we say, no matter what we’ve thought or imagined or dreamed or done. Our faith is revealed in our prayers; in our willingness to trust God enough to speak honestly, in our willingness to wrestle with the tough issues.

And God will be right there; holding on to us.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah 

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Pray honestly.

 

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