On page 77 of his beautiful book, Open Mind, Open Heart, Thomas Keating writes the following: Suffering is part of the warp and woof of living. It is not an end in itself, but part of the price one has to pay for being greatly loved. Love, whether human or divine, makes you vulnerable. And from page 14 of Heart of the World, he writes: Vulnerability means to be hurt over and over again without seeking to love less, but more.
Of course, most of us are familiar with I Corinthians 13, concerning God’s gift of love. Starting at verse 4, it says, Love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (I Corinthians 13: 4 – 8a, NRSV)
Lent is a season in which we are reminded of God’s intense love for His creation, and the pain and suffering God endured on our behalf, and the supreme sacrifice made for us. Over the past couple of years, I have been reminded numerous times about pain, suffering, sacrifice and vulnerability. I have not seen the necessity in Lent for “giving up” something relatively trivial like-- dare I say it-- chocolate, in the short term only to revel in on Easter Sunday. No, chocolate does not begin to approach the magnitude of what many I have lost for the remainder of my time on this planet. So what is the victory I will celebrate on Easter?
I will celebrate the fact that I am loved by a family, numerous sets of friends and acquaintances, and a God who loves me so much that He was willing to endure the pain, suffering and vulnerability to allow His Son to be sacrificed. I will celebrate that death does not have the last word on a life, and that my sins were taken into the grave… and left there! I will celebrate that love endures all things and never ends. I am not promised that it will never hurt. I am not promised that everything will go the way I think it should, or that I can be entirely carefree. I am not promised that physical, mental and emotional maladies will not rear their unpleasant heads from time to time, hurling me into the depths of pain. But I am promised that I am loved, and that love will survive all ills, provide hope, and remain throughout eternity.
Can your chocolate do that?
Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me so much that you sacrificed your Son. Thank you for the steadfast, faithfulness of your love and mercy, that rose victorious on that first Easter morning, and which sustains us still. Help us to be mindful of those among us who are in pain, are suffering and vulnerable. Help us to remember when we are hurting that it is a sign of being loved. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.