“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:10-11
***An initial disclaimer… This is not a post that is intended to stir up political debate, but rather ask some hard questions. It is also targeted primarily at any who claim to follow Jesus and identify as Christian. ***
As a rule, I am not an overly political person. I dislike labels and boxes and in general, work hard to be, as the Apostle Paul said, “all things to all people.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23) This is not to be flaky or to dodge having to answer tough questions when asked them, it is more out of a simple desire to meet everyone where they are at in life, and to make no assumptions about their heart, motives, or beliefs before truly getting to know them as a person; in essence to see everyone not as “the other” or an object to be dealt with, but persons to be loved.
I mentioned in my last post that I have, at times, struggled with depression and anxiety due primarily to loss and grief, and also to poorly managing my own mental health as I ought. It wasn’t until I walked through that valley with my own two feet however, that I truly understood how others who struggled similarly felt on the inside, no matter their exterior demeanor. Life has a way of kicking the crap out of you and leaving you beat up, bedraggled, and bleeding on the ground. This is not news to anyone who’s lived for some time and suffered any sort of loss. The difference on this side of the fence is that, once you’ve walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” or experienced “the dark night of the soul”, you often find that things are now cast in a completely different light, and if you let it happen, hopefully you find yourself a much softer and more compassionate person. Continue reading
“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Thornton Wilder, The Angel that Troubled the Waters
Yesterday, September 16th, 2015 marked the 4th anniversary of the miscarriage and loss of our son, Aidan Daniel. His death at 12 weeks was a devastating blow to my wife and I, for many reasons. First and foremost, his was the first and only pregnancy for us, after, at the time, 9 years of marriage, and trying for children, fertility testing with the diagnosis that nothing was wrong, and no idea why “this isn’t happening for us.” Second, we had just said goodbye 1 year prior to 3 of our Godchildren who’d lived with us for 3 years and brought us joy beyond measure or understanding, making us a family that we will never forget, and bringing out some of the best parts of us as individuals and as a married couple. Finally, with his conception being an unexpected and seeming “miracle” for us, his loss seemed like an immeasurable cruelty, and caused us both to question our faith and belief in the Divine, especially for me more than my dear wife, whose faith runs deep and wide, and I often found myself crying out in both sorrow and anger, raging against the injustice of it all. Continue reading
“One of the greatest dangers for Christian mission is that we become forgetful in the practice of the cross and create a comfortable type of Christian who wants the cross as an ornament, but who often prefers to crucify others than to be crucified himself.”
– Archbishop Anastasios
During Holy Week in the Orthodox Christian church, we hear all of the Gospel readings where Jesus derides the religious leaders of the day, for their strict adherence to their traditions, laws, and practices, while having cold and closed hearts and unable to have mercy on those they lead. Every year, hearing these, I can’t help but wonder, often, are we Christians the modern day Pharisees or are we still followers of the gentle Man from Nazareth? What would the Christ have to say to us if He came back today? I read Matthew 23 and substitute “Christians” every time Jesus says “Scribes & Pharisees”, and then I meditate on that…and I lament and ask for mercy and help because I see parallels everywhere and am convicted in my own heart that truly, often we are they, as “they” were the “us” of their day. I fear that, as Dostoyevsky wrote in “The Grand Inquisitor”, if our Lord returned today, we may not recognize Him, or worse, denounce Him because He’s not acting “Christian” and is interfering with the mission of our Church, and we no longer have need of Him or His miracles and mercy.
Continuing on from my last post, I’ll say again, that I’ve noticed a lack of genuine dialogue amongst people of differing beliefs.
When G.K. Chesterton was asked by the London Times to enter an essay contest to answer the question, “What is wrong with the world?” he responded simply,
“Dear Sirs; I am.”
I am. I am? On January 26th my wife and I celebrated 13 years of marriage, on April 26th I’ll have been on this Earth 37 years, and on July 26th I’ll have been the Director of St. John’s Camp Programs for 16 years. Much has happened in all of those years, and most of all, I’d say more than anything else, I remember the loves and losses that I’ve experienced in my short time here on Planet Earth. Love and loss. These are the things that often define us as human beings, or at the very least go into defining who it is that we are as persons and how we relate to others, and for each one of us fallen ones, these loves and losses are very personal and very different. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says,
“Until we have accepted, recognized, and loved what is broken in us and what is despicable in us, we will continue to despise others. I must accept myself as a broken person.” -Martin Luther King, Jr. as related by Jean Vanier
I confess that I am a broken person. I accept that brokenness. Life is a long and winding road, with twists and turns and irony and all nature of things we never expect to see or experience or pass through. Often it is kind and good and filled with wonder… Continue reading