Today looks to be another foray into wandering - and jazz - with the possibility of real sunshine, too!  This morning, after getting Di off to class, I read these words as a part of morning prayer. They hail from the wisdom of Frederick Buechner and warrant some reflection.

WHEN JESUS WEPT over the dead body of his friend Lazarus, many things seem to have been at work in him, and there seem to have been many levels to his grief. He wept because his friend was dead and he had loved him. Beneath that he wept because, as Mary and Martha both tactlessly reminded him, if he had only been present, Lazarus needn't have died, and he was not present. Beneath that, he wept perhaps because if only God had been present, then too Lazarus needn't have died, and God was not present either, at least not in the way and to the degree that he was needed. Then, beneath even that, it is as if his grief goes so deep that it is for the whole world that Jesus is weeping and the tragedy of the human condition, which is to live in a world where again and again God is not present, at least not in the way and to the degree that man needs him. Jesus sheds his tears at the visible absence of God in the world where the good and bad alike go down to defeat and death. He sheds his tears at the audible silence of God at those moments especially when a word from him would mean the difference between life and death, or at the deafness of men which prevents their hearing him , the blindness of men which prevents even Jesus himself as a man from seeing him to the extent that at the moment of all moments when he needs him most he cries out his Eloi Eloi, which is a cry so dark that of the four evangelists, only two of them have the stomach to record it as the last word he spoke while he still had a human mouth to speak with. Jesus wept, we all weep, because even when man is good, even when he is Jesus, God makes himself scarce for reasons that no theodicy has ever fathomed.

"Jesus shed his tears at the visible absence of God in the world... in the audible silence of God at those moments especially when a word... would mean the difference between life and death." I have known such moments. You probably have, too. Times when the only truth is an inner, aching emptiness that manifests itself in the terrifying sound of gasping for breath in-between the next avalanche of my own sobs. It is a loneliness that feels like suffocation. 

Tears in such a time are, I think, an organic prayer of longing. They are me reaching out to God when I can do nothing else. Knowing that Jesus wept - and shook in his flesh with the same body shaking agony that I have known - does change very much. It doesn't lessen the load of my suffering nor stop the flow from my eyes. At best, my pain is simply shared. Not diminished, not abbreviated, not healed and not explained. Just shared. And this sharing is intimate. I would not feel safe trusting another soul with this degree of vulnerability. Over the years I have discovered that sharing these tears with Jesus doesn't bring them to a close and doesn't really matter to anyone else but me. Yet I still find myself wanting and needing to share these tears with Jesus. Somehow I know he has felt what I feel - and understands me - without judgment.

Having finished Padraig O'Tuama's spiritual memoir last night, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World, prepared me to restart my study of Henri Nouwen's insights re: spiritual direction. Brother Henri writes that the practice of spiritual direction is all about creating "a space for God in your life. This takes time and commitment... By creating sacred space, you reserve a part of yourself and prevent your life from completely being filled up, occupied, or preoccupied...for spiritual formation cannot take place without discipline, practice and accountability." O'Tuama closes his book paraphrasing Carol Ann Duffy who suggested that if she believed in God she would "find prayer most consoling because to pray is to believe someone is listening." I know that when I make the time to be "un-full" I am sharing that experience with Jesus. Why I don't go there more often after all these years I still don't know. O'Tuama concludes:

Neither I nor the poets I love have found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it's a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, There, I greet God and my own disorder. I say hello to chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distractions and privilege. I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story...

And now it is time to shower and head to the streets to greet the sunshine.


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