Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Lenten Meditation

About six weeks ago, Margaret (our rector) announced that All Saints is putting together a booklet of daily Lenten meditations written by members of the congregation. There was a big sign-up sheet with the various verses available. Michele chose I Corinthians 1:25 (on the foolishness of the Gospel), and I chose Psalm 16:10. Unfortunately, the subject of my verse hit home again, hard, in the time when I was considering what to write.

Psalm 16:10
“For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit.”

Six tall men — her uncles, her friends — carried the coffin up the hill from the church. Under a grand old oak, the pit was already dug. Machinery creaked and groaned as the box was lowered into the ground. Nobody screamed, “Don’t put Diane in there!” But all of us felt the terrible wrongness of it. How could we abandon her to the grave? She was only 22.

Leaving a beloved child in the earth may be the worst thing any of us ever have to do, but this verse offers hope for all deaths, physical and spiritual. “The pit” implies “insatiability” and “hiddenness,” and is sometimes used to mean “corruption” as well. Death is greedy and unstoppable. It takes the people we love, and they don’t come back. We cannot know what happens to the person’s spirit, and we try hard not to think about what is happening to the flesh.

But even in that place, Someone is waiting to comfort and console, Someone who understands loss and suffering on a scale we can’t even imagine. Whether the grave where we lie is physical death; or the darkness of despair or addiction; or the emptiness of a materialistic life, God will not abandon us to the loneliness of death and the horrors of corruption. God, the loving parent, willingly allowed His Son to die for us, and God will resurrect us.

Death is hard enough as it is. The horrors of death without hope — without faith in God, without the knowledge of love and redemption — that would be unbearable.

Do I believe? I've had to keep asking myself. In the midst of loss, terror, pain, suffering; scarred, grieving, hurt; yelling at God, when a friend lost his mother, his job, and even his cat within a short space of time, "Why can't You pick on someone Your own size?"

Yes, I believe. I believe that God created us and loves us. I believe that the sinless death of Jesus the Christ makes redemption possible — that God, seeing the misery of a fallen world, reached out, tore open the veil, and let Grace in. I don't even pretend to know how it all works, but it makes a dreadful kind of sense to me. He died to build the bridge. To change the world so love could come in. Every healing has its price, and Jesus paid this one.

So what about the suffering I went through? the undeserved pain of my childhood? the scars I still endure? It prepared me to deal with others' pain. Maybe that's not enough of a purpose, but it's what I've got.

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