In the Midst of Wolves

Do you pray not to be put to the test? I do.

I think about the worst situation that I could find myself in and then I wonder… would I still love God in that situation? Would I still be a joyful, committed person of faith…? With that thought in mind, and in order to share a little of my personal life as someone with a physical disability, I am pressing this post from my other blog, BibleBursts.com.

In the Midst of Wolves.

Pain

Pain

is consuming,

just beyond control.

 

I eat the building passion, stuffed down my throat,

the intensifying energy shooting out my fingers flailing,

hard frequency emitting from brainstem

my eyeballs panic to block.  (Anywhere but here.)

Like a switch thrown down

Too late… Too much….

I am done in.

The agony wins

and I am nothing

but pain,

with no awaiting joy.

 

My mistake was in seeking control,

was in fighting.  When pain is divinely willed,

only surrender of self will bear any fruit.

Christina Chase

Child of the Poor

–Lyrics by Scott Soper, 1994

Helpless and hungry, lowly, afraid,

wrapped in the chill of midwinter,

comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace:

new life for the world.

Who is this who lives with the lowly,

sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?

This is Christ

revealed to the world in the eyes of a child,

a child of the poor.

Who is the stranger, here in our midst,

looking for shelter among us?

Who is the outcast?

Who do we see amid the poor, the children of God?

Who is this

who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows,

knowing their hunger?

This is Christ revealed

to the world in the eyes of a child,

a child of the poor.

Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace;

bring those with nothing to offer;

strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart,

“Fear not:

here is your God.”

a child of the poor.

 

And he is among us now.  Do we ignore him?  Do we pass him by?  The stranger… the outcast… the hungry… Who are we dismissing?  Christ.

Let us also remember that the Christ child was born into what we would consider miserable circumstances – but he was not miserable because he was loved.  Divine love doesn’t make life easier, doesn’t make all the hardships go away – Divine love makes life joyful.   There is nothing undignified about being poor or homeless.  God Himself chose to be born into such a state so that He could show us the power and richness of love.  If, however, we laud the Christ child, the baby in the manger and all the delights of Christmas, and then forget that the manger was a feeding trough in which the poor child slept – and if we then ignore the plight of impoverished children and their families everywhere in the world… or down the street… then we have no right to have celebrated Christmas.   If we do not see Christ among us, then we have not love.  And if we have not love, then we will never know true joy.

Night Divine

Some people don’t get Christianity, or any religion.  They hear a phrase like, “Have you found the Lord?” and they cringe a little or roll their eyes.  I don’t blame them for being dismissive.  I’ve done a lot of eye rolling myself.  But cynicism and flippancy won’t get us far in the pursuit of truth.  The thing about Christianity, what is valid and vital, is… well, Jesus, the Christ.  Anyone’s honest, deep, personal encounter with Christ shouldn’t be dismissed – for to do so is to miss the heart of the matter that we call life.

None of us are all that we want to be… or all that we could be or even should be.  We all miss the mark.  And we know it.  This is not only because we are inherently fallible and prone to mistakes, but also because we willfully fall short of the ideal.  We choose to hurt people.  We wallow in self-pity.  We want what we want, while pushing aside what we truly need.  We “look out for number one” and then suffer the loneliness.  And we are wounded… weary.  Wondering in the darkness of the world, we inevitably long for light to show us our true worth and the depth of reality that is hidden from us.

Christ, in whom the fullness of divinity is pleased to dwell*, is inherently different.  Ultimate Reality, Truth Itself, the Uncaused Cause, the Uncreated Creator becomes a creature.  Christ’s coming into and embracing our human existence in the depths of its poverty changes everything – not only in history, but also in the immediacy of our own individual lives.  The intimacy of God with us, of God within us, breaks our hardened hearts, opens our eyes… and awakens our souls to the eternally rich newness of life as new beings with the knowledge of infinite love.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ – both in our world and in our hearts.  The sacred reality of Christianity and all genuine encounters with Christ is voiced through the Christmas song, “O Holy Night”.  And this is what such an epiphany, what finding the Lord, can feel like:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.  A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees,

and hear the angel voices –

O night divine…”

And to live that moment with the whole of one’s life — this is true Christianity, the real fullness of life:

“Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.  Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.  Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.”

So, even though I confess that there is still a little part of me cringing when I say this, my soul’s voice sings, “Praise Jesus!”

May this praise pulse through me with every beat of my heart.

 

Original French poem by Placide Cappeau, English translation/alteration by John Sullivan Dwight

*Colossians 1:19

The Climbing Way

My friend’s husband died in the very early hours of this morning, while it was still dark.  He had prostate cancer that spread to his bones and to his liver.  He was a good man, lived a good life, as we say, loving his family, serving his community, sharing the Good News as a deacon, and ministering to those in prison.  A man of great faith, he had lived fully and well and was ready for what comes next.  As often happens, his body seemed less ready than his soul, as bodily death did not come suddenly but, rather, by suffering, slowly breaking down, groaning in the pains that is the dying process.  But peace was in his heart and his loved ones by his side.  When I heard of his passing, these words of It Came upon a Midnight Clear came to my mind:

“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,

whose forms are bending low,

who toil along the climbing way

with painful steps and slow,

Look, now, for glad and golden hours

come swiftly on the wing!

O rest beside the weary road

and hear the angels sing.”