Tag Archives: story

The Lent story and your story: Precious gifts for listeners

I woke up early last night, in the deep dark, flooded with stories. I have experienced a downpour of precious heartfelt tales in the last few days. I have one more segment of a weekend retreat with budding spiritual directors today. Much of what we have done centered around practice sessions which our teachers and colleagues devoted to experiencing God with us. “We beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.” Our stories are meeting God’s.

The first night of the retreat I woke up with a pain in my calf. I could go back to sleep, but I can still feel the  ache of the Charley horse. This night I am awake with a heartache. Some of the stories I heard contained heartbreak, some great joy and depth. But all the stories stretched my soul. I heard further stories from my family and my cell. I remembered some significant events from my own story. And I entered into the yearly retelling of the Great Story of Lent, which dares us all to become grounded in our own telling as we look into the eternity Jesus has opened up for us. Lent stretches us all.

Romanian Lent story
Click pic for Romanian ritual associated with Lent

The Lent ritual can ground us

We need to go on the Lenten journey each year for several reasons.

1) We are not who we were last year and we need to keep moving toward home. Our personal story linked to The Story needs to be re-viewed and edited.

2) The story of the death and resurrection of Jesus has to be played out in our bodies. We need to feel it in our bones as individuals rooted in the earth, fully present, here and now. And we need to feel the story in the bones of the body of Christ, our church, also anchored in a place and in a time. Like Jesus is an incarnation of the Spirit of God, in him we also embody heaven and earth. The story of Jesus is an example for us in how we are to retell that union day after day. Lent draws us to do the telling.

In his famous book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat neurologist Oliver Sacks told the story of a woman who had lost her sense of her body. We all have a sense of knowing where our body is. But she said, “I feel my body is blind and deaf to itself. It has no sense of itself.” We can all imagine the commitment it took to regain whatever sense she could of being fully herself. It began with telling her story to her loved ones and doctors and remaking connections. It seems to me that Lent always comes just in time, just before our sense of reality is swallowed up by other forces. We can lose our sense of ourselves in Christ. I can only imagine how 2020 swallowed up your life. I know I have come to admit it was probably the most difficult year of my long life. Lent challenges me to enter the story again and find my footing on the old path which is, again, new to me as who I am now, getting a sense of myself.

Telling our Lent story keeps us going

Alan Jones, in his book on Lent, Passion for Pilgrimage, says,

We need a song to sing, a story to tell, a dance to dance so that we know where we are and who we are. But we seem to have lost the art of storytelling and dreaming. Singing bits and pieces of what we know and telling snatches of half-remembered stories are better than nothing. The more we sing and tell the old, old story the less we will be satisfied with psychological and spiritual junk food, with false and temporary means of embodiment. Individually and collectively we feed on junk food – we hum snatches of tunes, dance a few steps, tell the fragment of a story. All this keeps us alive but barely. The Church invites us into a painful and passionate process of discovering who we are by the telling of story. It offers us the kind of food that will make us into a true body with others….Lent creates the space for us to dare a little in the direction of passion. We begin daring to hope for a homecoming. We already know scraps of the tune. It is now a matter of listening to the same old story to catch all of it.

I suppose for a few of my readers (and certainly for people you know) a resistance to Lent is well-formed. We always resist change or we would not be able to maintain the evils we do to ourselves and others. Even though we love what Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17, RSV), we still experience this newness as a kind of suffering. We don’t want to tell the story of how we feel disembodied for the shame of realizing we are not perfect. We will not go home, like the prodigal son in the Lord’s story must, because we would have to remember and tell the story of where we have been.

Image result for schitt's creek redemption

Lent gently but firmly insists that we find meaning in the empty spaces within us which are surrounded by the damaged and deluded senses that form our reality. Lent is a story, again and again, of how God emptied herself to become one with us, to reopen a way to our fullness. In that same chapter Paul says, “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God breaking in like that shined a painful light on how empty it is to find our meaning in 80 episodes of Schitt’s Creek. But isn’t it also amazing that fragments of goodness in that junk-food show lead us to turn our attention to something deeper in us and deeper in God! For those listening, a redemption story is being told every day.

Lent is our story meeting God’s

I don’t know about you, but it often feels like the deep, dark night of the world to me. I ache. I wake up with stories on my mind. Granted, I am kind of a professional story holder. But I am sure you experience the same kind of suffering as you relate to yourself and others and you run into the parts of your story and others which no one wants to remember, much less tell. To that achy place of resistance, Jesus is coming. I love how we open up a whole season of the year to welcome Him.

Lent is the disruption in the schedule that meets the disturbance of our souls. In that passionate place, Jesus meets us and saves us – a first time and again and again. The story of how Jesus saved us and saved us again needs to be told again this year. The story of Lent, how God loved the world in Jesus, didn’t condemn it, and opened up the way to freedom from sin and death for the whole world has many ways to be told again, and needs to be told. If you resist even the idea of that passion, you must have a soul. And that soul has a home waiting. The story of how you get there is precious.

Soak Up Generativity

At the memorial for Gwen’s mother, I read a portion of John 14 and this was part of it:

       If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
      Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
      Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

Generativity is right before out eyes.

Does it also seem amazing to you that Philip and the rest of the disciples are often unable to see what is happening right before their eyes? Contrary to all the evidence, when Jesus tells them something, they want more evidence. I wish I could not relate to that.

I have experienced so many wonderful things in the past week that bubbled with generativity! They had the Father in them. They were like Jesus showing me the Father. God has been so evidently at work! Yet in each instance of joy and creativity there was a choice to make, because there was also a whisper of judgment and a way to see the situation otherwise. I saw Jesus. But he had to ask me, “Don’t you know me? Don’t you believe the Father is in me?”

List whee you have been able to soak it up.

Maybe it is just me, but you might be going through similar challenges. So I thought I would encourage you to list where you have been able to soak up generativity. I make lists and I tell stories, 1) so I don’t lose track of my blessings in some morass of self-centeredness or self-condemnation, 2) so I don’t devalue God by ignoring grace. Today, I have a long obvious list. There were many moments last week that were pleasantly generative.

  • re generativityTouch. 1) When Michiko came up out of the water after her baptism, we spontaneously leaned in and touched our foreheads. 2) My grandson lolled on my lap for a good part of the Love Feast.
  • Retreat. I was away with the men last weekend. I had nothing to do but encourage and be encouraged, to soak up the Spirit and the energy of seekers.
  • Direct address. A person went out of their way to talk to me and not about me when they were worried about what I said. This is one of the most countercultural things Christians do.
  • Stories. The stone was repeatedly rolled away as people spoke at the baptism and the Love Feast.
  • Laughter. 1) The cooks at Cosi crashed their tools around so loudly when our cell was talking we could not stop laughing. 2) When Oliver and Nat were dancing on the ottoman to tunes from Beauty and the Beast, that was memorable.
  • Connection. Sixty or so children and State Representative Jordan Harris were at the building for a Childs Elementary art show. It was riotous and full of joy.

Don’t undermine your list, soak in it.

I think many of us gravitate toward seeing the dark side of most situations. A touch can feel painful. A retreat can feel lonely. A direct statement can be frightening. Stories can create envy. Laughter can seem like an interruption. Connecting can be tiring. We could have Jesus promising us eternity and need one more piece of evidence to feel good. Jesus could tell us he is going through death to bring us into life and we would be distressed he is dying. We are like this.

I say you should make your list and try not to even think about all the reasons your list is dishonest, tainted or troubling. Just soak in the generativity. If there is a drop of goodness coming your way, if you can see even a rivulet of grace flowing through the past week, let it reach you, get wet. I think we are in an ocean of God’s favor. It would make sense to take off the wet suit of fear, shame or whatever it is and feel it. This is me unzipping.