Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lenten Reflection: Palm Sunday

It's Palm Sunday morning and I'm at home, thinking about my dear friend Lisa and about her profound question a couple of posts back in response to my desire to insulate myself from Easter: Do we have to be ready? Why do we feel that we need to be ready?

A question asked on occasion in spiritual direction, in the context of the Mary and Martha story, to someone who readily identifies with Martha:

What does that mean, that you would ask Jesus to sit on the porch and wait while you finished raking the leaves and spreading the mulch and putting your tools away? What does it say that you would suggest that he go out in the living room and spend time with your other guests while you finish preparing the meal?

And the extension of the question, to someone whose circumstances are more dire: What does it mean, that you simply remove yourself from the picture rather than risk the interaction?

Grief is certainly one of the most, if not the most, self-absorbing of experiences. It strangles joy, anticipation, pleasure in the ordinary. It makes it difficult to listen to a friend's recounting of a daughter-in-law's pregnancy. It makes a church service in which children wave palm branches and shout "Hosanna!" an unbearable prospect.

But what does that mean, that you cannot find it in yoursef to be one of the celebrants? Or even a quiet observer?

If it were 2000 years ago and noisy and happy crowds were thronging the streets, would you be curled up on a bed in a back room, wising they would just move on?


What would it take to get you outside again? Just to watch? And if you were somehow about to manage that, what would you see?

Perhaps a glimpse of the one solitary person who knows what you carry in your heart? The heart that the first reading of Lent reminded you is broken beyond repair and scattered beyond reach?

Perhaps you would see someone who knows about that. Someone who is also enduring the celebratory chaos in the knowledge that it masks a pervasive darkness that has to be encountered in order to be conquered.

Perhaps your vision is becoming infinitesimally more accurate.


karengberger said...

I was just discussing this very thing with my husband, as we took a morning walk, instead of being in church. As our neighbors drove by us, on their way to church, I told Gregg that I cannot feel any desire to participate in a pageant that celebrates the coming of Eaater. I used to love every season of the church, and am deeply thankful that we brought our children up in that community of faith, knowing God. I have not lost my faith; on the contrary, my relationship with God is very much alive. But to go through the motions of re-creating something that I am still in the midst of living, something that involves deep and profound pain on a daily basis, makes waving palm branches and calling "Hosanna" seem like an exercise in empty make-believe.
I am walking the path to the cross in private, every day. Why would I want to celebrate that in public?
So I have no answer to my discomfort about being in church. I pray that God will continue to lead me, and that if I am in error, He will gently correct me. I understand what you wrote here, deep in my soul. Thank you for saying it. God bless you.

altar ego said...

I do not know what to say. If it helps to tell you that a complete stranger cares and prays for you, then let me tell you so. The pain of grief is so invasive. I will offer to you the hope that you may notice some sign of it receeding, even as it continues to hold you in its grip. Shalom.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Oh my. Your struggle with this question hits me hard, in a completely different place.

I don't mean to compare the situation I'm about to describe to your searing loss--please know that. It's just an explanation of the thought process this post triggered. The most profound grief of my life is that my husband and I could not have children at all. And because of that, I have been to church on Mother's Day exactly once in the last 12 years, and the time I did try to go, I sobbed uncontrollably throughout the service.

I've been wondering this year if I should perhaps try it again. So when you asked "What does it mean, that you simply remove yourself from the picture rather than risk the interaction?" that was what I thought of.

I still don't know. It isn't just wanting to avoid reminders of my own shattered dream; it's not wanting my emotions to intrude on the celebration of mothers.

There are no easy answers for questions like these, aren't there?

I'll be praying for you this Holy Week.

Gannet Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gannet Girl said...

Ruth, I am so sorry.

This week-end I had started to think about Mother's Day for myself and how I wish there was no such day. I generally avoid Mother's Day at church, since my children usually aren't here/ don't go to church anyway and my own mother has been gone for most of my life.

No, there are no easy answers or ways to get through days that for most people are celebratory without either exposing ourselves to more pain or impinging upon the joy of others.

Lisa :-] said...

"...that you simply remove yourself from the picture rather than risk the interaction?"

It's all about the risk.

You could feel more pain, more alienation, more desolation than you can bear to subject yourself to.

Or you could see something beautiful, something powerful, something of salvation...or just something that might bring a tiny smile.

Not to deny the loss, not to minimize it or try to forget it...just to reaffirm that there is a reason that you get out of bed every day and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Each person must determine for herself whether and when the chance of encountering that hand-hold is worth the risk...

RevDrKate said...

I can only say that I am so very glad that you and Lisa write and give voice the questions that have no answers. From the bottom of my heart...thank you. Prayers....

Stratoz said...

Mosaic Woman, for her own reasons, dropped away from attending church a few years back. Now it is strange when she is with me. Things change.

I can only imagine great grief and health issues like blindness... My hope is that my passions would survive them and what ever else may change in the next moment.


Heather said...

you are so insightful and wise...thank you for bringing his light into my life x