March 1, 2010
The Cup of Tears
Today's post is provided by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of the lovely Likewise book The Circle of Seasons. Here Kimberlee does what she does best--writes brilliantly, boldly, about the intersection of the great realities of the Christian faith with the daily challenges of life on earth.
This year I was ready for Lent. I was even eager for it. That's not usually the case. Usually Lent sneaks up on me and is halfway over before I even begin to feel my way into it.
But two weeks before Ash Wednesday, a dear friend's four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. I was stunned. We'd had a playdate with this little girl the day before her diagnosis. She'd had a slight tummy ache and a lingering cold--nothing to indicate she was seriously ill.
Suddenly, life seemed precarious, fragile, ephemeral. I looked at my own children and wept--knowing, as I rarely allow myself to know, that their lives are not in my hands, not in my control, not in my power. I looked at my own self, at the bump in my tummy that shows new life, and I wept. So much can go wrong. Life, health, breath--none of these are givens. They are all gifts, each day. And one day, we will not receive these gifts.
So yes, I was ready for Lent. Even before Ash Wednesday, I was weeping over the fragility of life, I was weeping because I knew the truth of the words my pastor would speak over us: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return."
Marked with the sign of the cross in ashes, we returned to our seats. My daughter was crying. She wanted to receive communion, and my husband would not let her. We decided years ago that our children must wait to receive communion till they are able to articulate what it means. For the first time I questioned that choice. It's cruel, really, to mark them with that horrible cross and then not let them eat the body and drink the blood. The body and the blood are all that make the cross bearable.
The body and blood are all that make life bearable in months like this, when all around me people I love are in pain, when I myself am in pain. The body and blood proclaim God's presence in brokenness, proclaim God's brokenness to a broken world, to a broken me.
I confess, sometimes I do not want a God who humbly meets me in brokenness. I want, in the words of Tim Dearborn, "a God who exercises enemy-annihilating power." I want God to obliterate the cancer that is eating Michaela's bone marrow. I want God to eradicate my pregnancy-induced queasiness--both physical and emotional. I want God to show up with power and might. I want God to raise his victorious right hand and for all to be well.
But God chooses a different way. In Jesus, God chooses the way of suffering, the way of sorrow.
This Lent, I am learning once more to look for God in the midst of pain, in the midst of fear, in the midst of sorrow.
I am learning again to be comforted by the tears of Jesus, those tears like drops of blood, shed for me.
I am learning that my own tears for my friend, for her daughter, for mothers everywhere who must watch their children suffer--these tears are prayer.
I am learning that these tears are the tears Jesus drank when he tipped the cup of suffering to his lips and drank it to the very dregs.
And I am learning to allow my tears to be a place where Jesus meets me, a place where I cling to him, a place where he takes even my fear that I cannot trust him and transforms it into love.
This Lent, when I eat the body and drink the blood, I remember that Jesus "drank the cup of my tears so that I might drink His cup of life."
All quotes are from a sermon by Tim Dearborn, "In the Garden," delivered February 21, 2010, at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington. You can listen to this sermon here.
To keep tabs on Kimberlee, visit her website.