Sometimes I wonder why I say yes.
Melanie our Priest at St. Paul’s asked me the week before last if I would read some of Jesus’s last words for Good Friday service and pontificate about it for 5-6 minutes. She didn’t actually say pontificate, she said “meditate” , but that is my feeling about talking in the pulpit sometimes.
I got the phrase that I can’t pronounce. My God, my God why have you forsaken me? is the general translation. Some translations say, abandon. All are based on the 22nd psalm.
1.My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2.O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.
And the psalmist continues describing his anguish and ends with a prophecy of the coming of the Lord. Next up, psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd reminding us that,
6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
So that is my mini- exegisis and I can connect the dots to the scripture in Mathew pretty darn easily. Jesus is on the cross, but we know the end of the story and his is raised, salvation all around. Easter lilies and chocolate bunnies for the rest of us.
This universal condition of feeling completely abandoned is a familiar one. I see it with patients in their own dark hour. Chaplain shop talk calls it “the dark night of the soul”. Alcoholics call it “hitting their bottom”. In depression, it is that point before you step off into the abyss of absolute aloneness because you can not bare the feeling or weight of it any more.
But here is the thing. Hang on. We know the end of the story. We know that we will have Easter. The tough thing is leaning into the depths of abandonment. Forsakenness. The psalmist says that he is lower than a worm, not even human. Who hasn’t felt that before?
I certainly have. And I have wondered if there really is a God and I hit my bottom, I couldn’t see, or feel or even know that my God was there the whole time.
And yet, here I am. Last night I was a guest lecturer at Emmanual College teaching a master’s level class of Nursing students, of all things. The class is Spirituality and Ethics in Nursing, and I got to teach on spiritual assessments. Today I got one of the most heart warming letters from the professor who said loads of good things about the class and my teaching.
Monday I brought a palm to a patient who was experiencing their own dark night and “I said, you are not alone, I will be here with you” . Monday night in the halls I heard the same thing from folks that have been sober for a while to the newcomers who are so very lonely and feeling so very forsaken. “You are not alone. Welcome”.
God never promises us that it will be easy. In fact, there are tons of stories in every major faith that tell us the opposite. Things are gonna get bad, but hold on.
Easter is coming. I have meditated on it. Might actually get up the moxie and just read the blog post vs. cleaning it up for prime time. At this point, I am gonna leave it alone and just stay fluid through the unknown.