Brokenness

Resurrection is the reason for our hope and joy

We all have a story.

For families, the story includes those of parents, children and the ones we love, living life intertwined, each person affected, for better or for worse, by the joys, Crossonsnowmountain
sorrows, and choices of those whose stories touch ours.

Sometimes, it is in the darkest moments of our stories that we become aware of our own capacity to love.

My epiphany came on Mother’s Day, 2015.  It was not, perhaps, an epiphany to match that of Thomas Merton, the very famous Trappist monk who had an epiphany of love on a street corner in Louisville. But it was my epiphany and all the more meaningful for me.

I was sitting in the locked-down lobby of the county jail while waiting to visit my son. I had been visiting once or twice a week for the past two months, and every time, as I sat waiting, I was thinking, “This was never part of my plan. How did we get to this place?”

My first visit was surreal … being buzzed in, the police officer checking my ID behind a protective shield, the glass window behind which my son stood when he was brought down, the phones we used to communicate, the prisoner’s uniform. It just seemed like a scene from “Law and Order” instead of one from my own family story.

I realized that, in jail, they use the more politically correct term of inmate instead of prisoner, but prisoner is what my son really was – a prisoner of opiates long before he ended up behind that glass window in that uniform. I felt sick, heart-broken, guilty and alone. Surely, looking around the lobby on that first visit, I didn’t belong here, and neither did my son. Still, here we were, at the cross.

But in one instant on Mother’s Day, in that dreary jail lobby, I realized that all of us, waiting for our turn to visit, had entered, in our own way, into the life of Christ. Like the Apostles, each of us, no matter how different and in spite of our own weaknesses, were there because we loved someone, hoping to make a difference in their life by our simple presence – and I heard the words of the powerful Taize hymn, “Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray.”

In the Gethsemane stories of those who sat waiting with me, I heard their unique, yet familiar, struggles – broken marriages, broken relationships, drug addiction, the death of children, bad choices, bad friends, loss of faith, loss of family, suicide, terrible financial difficulties and, sometimes, homelessness. Some stories were so heartbreaking I could barely contain my emotions, and I was grateful, and privileged, to have exchanged promises to pray for one another.

Not long after Mother’s Day, my son called to tell me he had been paroled. His time in jail had been good for him. He was drug free, though he would need continued support to stay so, and he was positive and prayerful, looking forward to a new chapter in his life. “See, I make all things new,” filled my heart.

I remember breaking down in tears. “My son is coming home,” I thought, and I wondered if God might have had a similar feeling on the day of the Resurrection. Surely, the God of Love would have felt the pain and anguish of his only beloved Son, and would have known the joy of Jesus’ coming home, the joy of new life. Certainly, Mary did.

How far we have come, my son and I, since the days when an exceptionally inquisitive toddler would find ways to escape the locked doors of our house and wander happily in his pajamas in the new winter snow in our backyard. Loving him has taken on new forms as he’s grown into a man. One of the most meaningful has been waiting with him in Gethsemane, and walking with him as he embraced his crosses. It has not been easy. After all, the hallmark of a mother is to fix everything, to take away pain and make things better. Part of the growing up process for moms is accepting that there are many things we cannot control.

For us, as Christians, Jesus’ Resurrection changes everything.  With love at its heart, the Resurrection is the reason for our greatest hope and our greatest joy. It allows us to accept the invitation to new life that is inherent in every cross, and to hold on to our faith in God’s promises.

For me, the Resurrection has become a new focus of my faith, one that as allowed me to believe, when others didn’t, that my son would experience his own resurrection through his singular faith in God.

That is reason for a very joyous, “Alleluia!”


Holding on to a storm of anger damages body, mind and spirit

For many years, I believed that being submissive to God meant accepting everything that came my way without complaint, without anger, without moaning and Darkstormgroaning. But as I grew in my understanding of the spiritual life, I realized that the very demonstrative, outspoken and loving women in my family were often more on target about the spiritual life than I was.

They embraced their emotions and expressed their feelings – embellished by a wide variety of hand gestures – seeming to know instinctively that such expressions were necessary to who we are as God’s children. My learning was reinforced by my therapist, whom I came to trust as a spiritual advisor, as well, while being treated for depression. “The best thing you could do for yourself is get angry!” she advised me one day.

She reminded me of Jesus, turning over the tables in the temple in a fit of anger, and his frequent frustration with the Apostles, which he didn’t hesitate to express – but always with a goal in mind, always with an eye toward growth and positive change.

“Getting angry is healthy and it’s real,” she said, stressing that the need to express strong emotions in appropriate, constructive ways can add years, and satisfaction, to life.

Not only is dealing with anger  an emotional exercise, it is a spiritual one, as well. When a storm of anger makes its home within us, it impedes our relationship with God and others; it destroys our bodies from inside out and holds our souls in darkness.

Learn some healthy ways to express anger,  http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/healthiest-ways-express-anger, and look at anger from the spiritual perspective http://www.answersforme.com/article/1297/find-answers/family/the-effects-of-anger


In any storm, a mother's love never gives up

SnowsuitWith the newest snow storm upon us, I am reminded of winters in upstate NY and a mother who dressed me reminiscent of the younger son in The Christmas Story – stuffed into a snowsuit like sausage into a casing and double wrapped with scarves and gloves, and mittens on top. My dad wasn’t so tough a clothing task master. With him, there was more chance of bending a joint, and
getting frostbite.  I think it had something to do with a mother’s love.

To be sure, one of the constants in my life growing up was my mother. I never doubted for a moment that she could move mountains for me if I needed them moved. Yes, she had the “snowsuit” tendency to be overprotective, but in the important times she allowed me to fly, in spite of the pain it caused her. And in all things, she was always there for me when I needed her, perhaps not happy with my choices, but always offering her love, none-the-less.

Lately, when the local Christian radio show plays a song by Passion, “One Thing Remains,” I find myself thinking of her, and of Mary, especially as Mary followed Jesus during his years of ministry, right up to his death on the cross where she stood at his feet, held fast to him, in his agony and hers, by a mother’s love. His thoughts could have been similar to the words of the song:

 “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me … And it’s higher than the mountains that I face and it’s stronger than the power of the grave and constant in the trial and the change, this one thing remains. … your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…”

May the love of Jesus and Mary be ours to give.


Image from manicexpresssive.blogspot.com

A page from Things My Parents Taught Me

ShuttersA mother never knows just how much attention her children are paying to her, but every once in a while she discovers they know her better than she thinks they do.

That was my discovery when my son, an eighth grade language arts teacher sent me an email explaining that they were writing memoirs in class, and, I guess while his students were writing, he was inspired to write a “Slice of Life” piece which was inspired by my style of writing.

Always the wise guy, as all my sons seem to be, he titled it as being from Things My Parents Taught Me. I share it, with a smile. He knows me – not just my style of writing – so well.

There’s a weathered house around the corner from me, where the bushes grow feverishly, aiming to devour the tattered relic.

Where a faded American flag flutters solitarily. It’s a home where a shutter gracefully dangles on paint-chipped cedar shingles. Where cracked windows are marked with the battle scars of childhood rock throwing. Where a gate sways on a hinge, drunkenly guarding the distant memories etched in the house’s history. Where a broken rocking chair sits on time warped planks, grayed by years of weather. It’s the kind of place many passer-bys would miss.

It’s the kind of place my mother would love.

She’s always had a penchant for gentle simplicity and for distinguished houses. The kind of house that needs some work and calls for that special someone to restore the beauty, to realize the potential. I think a dream exists for her – a dream of moving into a house around the corner and accepting the challenges that await, even if they are daunting.

She is not one to shy away from difficulty, to allow the task to leave its mark on her. She would see the house for what it could be – and who knows, maybe she would bring her husband to help, because it seems he’s pretty good with his hands, and I’m sure there would be a leaky roof and damaged walls and worn floorboards.

But I also know that it’s easy to miss that house, if we’re not looking for it. And it seems that often we, as people, don’t see it. We don’t see that we have become like the house around the corner, battered by many storms, grayed by time.

We don’t realize that we have left too many repairs unattended, that we have forgotten to make an investment in ourselves and in others. And as we examine who we are or who we have become, hopefully we see that, in the end, we are worth restoring.

I wish I wrote that.


Broken hands are a sure path to God

MarybrokenhandAfter my parents died and it came time to pack up all of their possessions, I found a small statue of Mary tucked away in the dark corner of a bedroom shelf – a memory from my youth. I had named her Our Lady of the Broken Hands.

She had not come through the years unscathed. Her hands, pressed together in prayer, were missing the fingers, and her torso, once broken completely in half, had been glued together by my dad at my mother’s insistence. She would never entertain the idea of throwing away her beautiful statue just because of a little thing like being broken in a few places.

For many years, Our Lady of the Broken Hands sat on my desk at work next to a second statue of Mary with a similar affliction. She has no hands. This small, delicately carved wooden statue was damaged in a move from one office to another. When I unwrapped her and saw that her hands were missing I could not help but stop to reflect on the two statues that now stood side by side in their imperfection.

They became, for me, a constant reminder of a painful and wonderful lesson – we, like they, are beautiful in our brokenness.

And broken we are, whether or not we are willing to admit it.

My broken statues of Mary remind me that my own imperfections are the vehicles for God’s work in me, and that with faith, patience, courage and passion we can each move beyond the limitations of our imperfections to fulfill all our God-given potential.

We are God’s creation, after all, as the very imperfect king, David, reminds us in his song to God: “Lord, you have searched me, you know me; you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar, my travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar . . .You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”

There is a reason for our imperfection. It keeps us close to God and allows God room to work in us.

But since I am always in need of reminding, I will be happy to make room next to Our Lady of the Broken Hands for any less-than-perfect statue that needs a home.

 “God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself in so far as you are a created being and let God be God in you.”  Meister Eckhart

 

Google image from ngm.nationalgeographic.com