Wednesday, February 22, 2012
When will it end? The sky was black velvet, then it was lit by little golden glows as the nightmare came
It was after lunch, I was editing her devotional; she had slept later that morning, that’s when the anxious dreams come. This one was different. It was in color. The sky would light up with the little yellow parachutes before the bombs began to fall. After a bit, we went on discussing the devotional she is to give at the Deacons’ meeting.
We are approaching Lent, the time between winter and summer, leading us from Ash Wednesday to the celebration of Easter. A time that invites us to a new beginning, for making changes, a time for exploring ourselves and our life styles, our ways of thinking, believing, doing.
Fasting is a traditional way to come closer to the goal of a new beginning, not only by withholding food (which can be dangerous to some people with health problems) but especially by using meditation, silence, and prayer.
Fasting is a time for opening to a new honesty about ourselves, of making ourselves vulnerable new experiences, a clarification about ourselves and our spiritual lives, a time for strengthening our commitment to being Christian in mind and action. Fasting also raises the question, “Who am I?”This is the time to allow ourselves to be an open vessel and receive. This is a time to take inventory to what is healthy and valuable, of what is better to be replaced.
Fasting is a way to create an empty space within us – empty from the fullness and habits of the life we usually live. A few months ago it occurred to me that there is a place here in church that puts me within a place like fasting. It provides me with not only insight in other people’s lives, but also profoundly into my own, of learning who am I, of how I can apply myself as a Christian.
Once a month I meet with several other deacons for three and a half hours here in church. We are welcoming patients who are referred to us by Matthew 25 for financial assistance with their dental work. People who cannot chew their food, who develop health risks, people who are not employable because of their appearance, People frequently on disability and in poverty.
I come to this meeting out of the fullness of my life, into a place that soon becomes a very different territory, a barren place that is filled with stories of unmet basic needs, of pain, loss, and illness, yet not without hope. People who are beaten down only too often by adversities – but also people with braveness and endurance, presenting their story – hoping for help. I soon feel overwhelmed by listening to their experiences, feelings that are intense and painful, of anger, and sadness, a sense of leadened helplessness – yet I also experience sensations of great respect and admiration about how some of our visitors deal with their situations and what models they can be of survival.
Coming out of the fullness of my life I feel that I have entered a space that compares to the reality of fasting in Lent, opening my mind to a new clarity and new commitment. It brings me again to the realization that I am sitting and listening to my sister and brother in Christ, an opportunity to loving our neighbor as we do ourselves. In these meetings we are representing this congregation and the entire Church by living, acting, and passing on God’s love. When these suffering persons have been assured they will receive the financial help they are in such need, their very body language changes as the tension leaves and a half smile appears, then a full smile; they straighten out – heads high. That, too, is a part of the climax of Lent for me.
I return home to what I have earlier called the fullness of my life with a new clarity, a sensing there will be a difference in me from now onward.
It strikes me that the ancient symbol linking the cross and crown has great reality. “When will be nightmares end?” is not the question; it is rather that of transformation.