GPS for the Soul Week 6
Week 6 Reflection:
It is much more radical, much more daring, and much more dangerous to hope.
I have a friend who flips to the last page of every book on her shelf to make sure there is a redemptive ending before she commits to the story. Isn’t that what we all secretly desire—the chance to turn to the last page of our earthly story, or the stories of those we love—and see it printed in black and white: Love prevailed!
The days leading up to Easter are painful; a real reckoning in mind, body, and spirit. Nothing can ever prepare us for death, so frightening not knowing the when, the how, the what next for ourselves and those we love. Jesus did not sugar-coat death. His experience outlines all its pain, vulnerability, doubt, but finally hope and redemption. How do we face the end of anything? A season, a marriage, a job, a child leaving the nest—much less the only life we know here on earth. When Jesus realizes his death is near, he suffers terrific human fear and literally sweats blood. On his knees, he begs his Father to help him avoid the inevitable. Where was his comfort then? God appears to remain silent.
On Good Friday, Jesus was pushed to the limits of physical pain. He also had to endure the emotional trauma of not only waiting for the end to come but also watching his mother, whom he loved, see him horribly suffer, helpless to save him.
What if the story had ended at Golgotha, a grim funeral vigil with all those who loved Jesus just left behind utterly afraid of “The End.”
For 15.6 billion years, the determination of God’s story has never wavered. A universal cosmic life-death-life pattern plays out across creation whether it is a star in the Milky Way, a bioluminescent jellyfish, a prehistoric Gingko, or the incomparably created human being. Nothing God creates ends—the pattern just changes.
A gentleman at my church, whom I greatly admired and loved, was told on a Tuesday afternoon that there was nothing left to be done. The cancer had won. He left the doctor’s office and calmly returned home. I watched him walk through his house of fifty years for the last time, hold a picture frame of his family, pat his dog, pick up his hat and umbrella and then flash me a smile. Next, he turned to his son and announced: “I’m ready.” They got in the car and drove downtown to Alive Hospice. I performed the funeral a week later. For years, I was rattled by how calm and accepting my friend was of his fate. I fear I won’t have the courage to surrender—but will be angry and fight my fate. No peaceful smile. My old and wise friend’s parting gift and the symbol of his faith was that reassuring smile. He trusted love to be stronger than death. Although the curtain was closing on this his life, he believed his show was not over. His God was too creative—and loving for that! Continuation is God’s holy gift to us.
I like to remember Frodo, the hero in J.R.R Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings. He and his dear friends Pippin, Merry and Sam were heroes! They saved the Shire and had come to see Almighty Gandalf, their leader, off. Gandalf announces, “This comes the end of our fellowship.” Their journey was over. Gandalf makes his way, staff in hand, to board the waiting Elven ship. But not before he turns back, reaches out his hand (just as God promises to do in Psalm 139:18) and calls Frodo to join him. Immediately, the hobbits panic at the thought Frodo would not continue on with them. The pain of watching Frodo say goodbye to his friends, especially when he hugs Sam for the last time, opens the floodgates of tears for me every time! Calmly, Frodo joins Gandalf. Just before the ship sets sail, Frodo turns back to his friends and gifts them with a reassuring and hopeful smile! You then know everything is going to be more than okay as the ship embarks on a new horizon. The point is wherever Frodo is going will be good. He is with Gandalf. And the hobbits are given hope for their own eternal future.
The most powerful moment in the Easter drama is when Jesus surrendered himself to God and his destiny: “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” At that moment death lost its hold on him, and the peace beyond understanding flooded the story.
There is no getting around Good Friday and the cross. It is the destiny for all of us. But the clear promise, witnessed in nature and in this story of Jesus, is resurrection. Now let us trust that God will extend His hand and see us through too.
Walt Whitman proclaimed:
“All goes onward and outward and nothing collapses. And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and much luckier.”
May you experience renewed hope in Easter’s promise.
Week 6 Prayer:
I gift you with my favorite poem by W.H. Auden for your Easter prayer:
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the world of Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
And let this be your Easter anthem: