We don't weep alone
I'm continuing in this thought today (from the past few blog posts) that loneliness and a sense of isolation can be crippling. Mother Teresa described is this way:
".....the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love."
In one way that is simple. Love heals. But if it were so simple, why is it so hard to grasp, not only intellectually but also experientially? Part of the difficulty lies with us. You see, it takes immense amounts of courage to face the vulnerability of being loved in the midst of shame, despair or grief. I have experienced that vulnerability and in that moment the only thing I wanted to do was hide. It's common to us all. Remember Adam and Eve in the garden trying to hide behind the fig leaves?
There are, however, some examples of courageous people through the ages that have demonstrated this "leaning into love" in the middle of some very vulnerable circumstances. The one I want to look at today is a woman called Mary Magdalene. I am going to look at a snap shot of her story when she was deep in grief (John 20 1:18). Mary, like all of us, had a pretty messed up past. When she meets Jesus he frees her from demonic oppression and it changed her life. Mary was one of his followers all the way to his crucifixion where she is standing near the cross witnessing this man she loves dying a torturous death. I want to pick up the story 2 days later when she goes to the tomb where Jesus' body had been laid. It's all a bit chaotic for her and not what she expected because she goes in the dark but when she gets there the tomb is open and Jesus' body is not there. She runs back to find two of Jesus' other followers and they all go back together. The two men leave after seeing the tomb but Mary stays, shaken and in grief. She stands outside the tomb crying. She is alone as she weeps...or perhaps things are not quite as they seem.....
As Mary bends over to look in the tomb, she sees two angels, then she turns around and saw Jesus himself standing there but...and this is funny in a way....she thinks he is the gardener!
What does Jesus do? He says her name. He speaks to her and she knows it's him. She knows his voice. She reaches out to him.
What's astounding about this is that Jesus hasn't yet returned to his Father. Can you imagine the desire in His heart to be back with His father after the trial and endurance of the cross? However, he pauses, he waits, so that he can be with Mary as she weeps. He brings comfort to her heart and assures her that she is not alone.
In truth, I wish Mary hadn't witnessed the brutality of the cross. I would have loved for life to look different for her. I like happy endings not bloody endings. I don't yet understand the massive cost of sin and the way it has ravaged this world. I don't understand the cost it was to God. Perhaps I see the cost to humanity if I really care to look, but I'd rather not look. I just don't understand his ways. I don't understand how he cares for us as we suffer and struggle. I don't understand why so many of his disciples also suffered bloody ends to their lives. It makes me highly uncomfortable. Can't we just all be one happy family and picnic in the sun? I laugh at myself a little because I think a sweet "happy families" ending to this whole diabolical mess, might actually work. It won't. So I see Mary, grieving, hurting, broken, devastated, and Jesus meets her in the middle of that, calls out her name, gives her hope and courage.
Oh Lord, is that how you do this whole thing? You don't control the circumstances of our lives, but you give us resource on the inside to make it through. Perhaps....just perhaps...we don't yet understand the power that lies within us to cause and affect change all around us. That is the good news, not that life comes to us in a sweet pretty package, but that we have power greater than we know to press light, life and goodness out into the darkness and drive out the shadows of despair and hopelessness because love himself lives in us.
Therein lies our hope. Love himself calls out to us, he wants to live in all the rooms of our heart. Not just the pretty ones but also the jacked up, wretched ones. Can we let him in to those dark corners. Can we choose to believe love is with us even there? The greatest news of all is not that we first loved God but that He first loved us.