How To Find What You Came Here For

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Waiting...

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Yesterday was Good Friday, tomorrow is Easter Sunday, today is...waiting.  For the friends, followers, and family of Jesus, who watched him die an excruciating death yesterday, today would have been the deep breath we take when something horrible has happened and we don't know yet if we will emerge from it whole.

How many times did Jesus tell his friends and followers that his death was coming?  Yet when it all happened exactly as he said it would - exactly as Isaiah and David said it would, even - they were shocked.  Because bad things don't happen.  They aren't supposed to happen...not to us. We follow Christ.  We live our lives to a higher standard.  We follow the rules and that means really bad things don't happen.

Then they do.


A four-year-old boy collapses dies on a soccer field in Houston, a seventeen-year-old girl pulls in front of a dump truck and dies one day after getting her license, a family deals with the loss of two sons.  These are the things that, as a parent, my nightmares are made of.  


We know that bad things happen to good people - there are books about it - but most of us live in a state of optimism that those things won't happen to us.  Prosperity preaching encourages that belief.  If we pray the right way, if we are "right with God" then we will be protected from those really bad things that happen to other people.


I think the Apostles would have some not-too complimentary opinions about that.  They watched Jesus be arrested, beaten, tortured, hung from the cross, and die a slow and unbelievably painful death.  Later, as they built the early church, they were imprisoned, abused, and killed.  I suspect that they weren't particularly surprised to find that bad things could and did happen to good people.


So on the Saturday after Good Friday the friends, followers, and family of Jesus are waiting to see if they will come out of this whole.  The really bad thing has happened.  Who will they be now that Jesus is gone?  They are waiting, taking that deep breath.


What are they waiting for?  They've forgotten the hope that Jesus gave them of his return, they are grief-stricken and afraid, but they are still waiting.  The joy of Easter hasn't happened yet...no promises have been fulfilled...and their hope died with Jesus.  And yet they wait, taking that deep breath.


When our lives fall apart, when the really bad thing doesn't happen to someone else, when our nightmare is real and not something to wake up from, we take that deep breath and wait to see if we'll come out whole on the other side.  Who will we be now that the life we knew, the life we expected to have, is gone?  Nothing but questions...but we wait, taking that deep breath.


I learned to breathe when I was pregnant with my first son.  That special breathing women (and their panic-stricken husbands) learn to help them through labor and delivery.  I made fun of it at the time.  I had flashbacks to watching Bill Cosby's routine on it and got a fit of giggles that had our instructor glaring at me - which, of course, only made it worse.


But, when the time came the breathing worked.  Then I discovered that breathing - intentional breathing, not the brain-stem kind - worked on all sorts of pain and anxiety.  It was a revelation.  On my last (and I do mean last, as in ever) plane trip, I used what's called a breath prayer through the entire ordeal.  The poor businessman next to me was not amused...but that's because he didn't know that the deep breathing and muttering was the only reason the crazy lady next to him hadn't clawed her way over his lap and through the side of the plane at thirty-six thousand feet.


Jeremiah provides the perfect breath prayer in Lamentations, and some of the people waiting on that Saturday after Jesus died might have used it,  the breathing and the prayer easing the pain and calming the anxiety.


Breathing in:       The Lord is my portion;
Breathing out:     ...I will wait for Him.


The entire scripture is: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.  Lamentations 3:22-24 


The patience to wait, and breathe, is hard to come by.  We want to do, act, react.  Waiting doesn't feel like doing; waiting doesn't feel useful.  Why wait to see what will happen when you can make something happen?  Be proactive?  Take charge of the situation!  We aren't good at waiting. 


The Apostles waited, and on Easter morning the tomb was empty.  They knew that following Christ wouldn't protect them from pain and sorrow, but on Easter morning they also knew that God's promise would bring them back to joy and light.


I'm taking today, the Saturday after Good Friday and before Easter Sunday, to wait.  I'm going to breathe, and pray, and wait.  I'm waiting to see God's hand in the things that are worrying me - because I know that His love means I will not be consumed by my worries, that every morning is a new day for Him to show me His faithfulness.  I am His, and He is my portion.  I will wait.