I commend my spirit.
Buttermoon Farm, Easter Homily 2017
Reflecting on Easter, it was Jesus’s final and most revelatory words from the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” that especially struck a chord with me this year.
To “commend” means to entrust something precious to another’s care with great confidence. Harper’s Latin Dictionary further defines commend as “to commit for preservation.”
A friend of mine commended her beloved dog “Coach” to her sister when she had to move across the country. My father commended his special fishing boat to the care of my husband. My mother commended to me her great-grandmother’s heirloom gold wedding band with O’Farrell engraved inside. I commended a piece of my heart to my six children on the day they were each born. You commend in good faith something or someone precious to you if you are convinced that the recipient will honor, protect and love it better than even you could.
Jesus commended his spirit, which to me means he entrusted his all and everything to God: his today and tomorrow, his dreams and his fears, everything he loved, his hopes, his coming death and his hereafter. What I now see is that these were not just the words of a dying man, but the secret to Jesus’s courage, his mystical calmness in the face of life’s struggles, his remarkable kindness and his boundless hope. Most important, it was because Jesus trusted God that he was willing to risk so much in the name of love. Deep within, Jesus knew that whatever happened in his life, God would preserve his spirit.
Unlike entrusting a pet or a boat or a wedding ring to another’s care, to actually turn over one’s life, that is, the whole of who you are and everything that you love, to that which you cannot see, prove, or fully know is both ludicrous and life-changing in the same breath. God remains a mystery to us. But thanks to Jesus we have a good hint as to what we can expect if we dare to trust God to take care of us, those we love and this world. We will never be left at our cross. This is the hope that does not disappoint.
Our value to God is our soul. When God looks upon us God doesn’t see how smart we are, what we have accomplished, our failures, how fit we are, how well we are aging, how many books we have written or the count of gold coins in our pocket. No, God sees precious cargo—a noble and wondrous soul. Our soul holds the sacred data of who we truly are: Every fear, struggle, doubt, scar, hope and dream. Even more important, it holds those we have loved and been loved by.
When you deed your soul to God, in return, God commits to being with you throughout the plot of your life, every season, the vales and mountaintops, all the unknowns and what if’s, the skinned knees and broken hearts, even the mystery of death and the hope of what may follow. This is love. No wonder Jesus could brave his cross. He knew God loved him and would be there to save him.
To commend your soul to a Divine Reality suddenly opens your life to the possibilities of miracles and mystery; awe and wonder; consolation in suffering; redemption and resurrections; unyielding hope and life-saving love. It doesn’t mean that we are suddenly protected from pain, disappointment, terrific loss or even death, but that we never have to face it alone with no hope. Whatever happens, we will be taken care of. Or in the words of St. Paul, “Nothing can or will ever separate us from the love of God.”
In some strange way, “Into Thy Hands, I commend my Spirit” speaks more presciently to my spirit than even the words, “He is Risen,” because I need to know that I have God now…….. and forever.
I can do and face anything if I believe that God has me.
Faith is a daily commendation of one’s soul to God. I don’t know where you are at this moment in your life. Maybe you or someone you love is facing a surgery or a scary diagnosis. Maybe a relationship is testing the fibers of your heart, or grief has you struggling to breathe. Maybe you are weary from trying to have a baby or one of your children is struggling and you feel helpless to help them. Maybe you are in a season of doubt or the tenuousness of life has left you anxious, even afraid. Maybe you just want to feel more brave, more hopeful, more loving and you know you need God to do it. Wherever you are, you can whisper the words, “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit,” and take a sigh of relief—God has you.
Live in Hope,