Breathe on me

Immediately following his agonizing crucifixion and supernatural resurrection, the first time Jesus appeared to the whole bunch, he breathed peace and the power of his Spirit over his disciples, and said, “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? John 20:22-23, The Message. That last line stopped me cold.

I would have expected words of comfort for the fear and dejection they had experienced in the last few days.

Or answers.

What happened to Jesus? Where was he during those dark hours? What did it feel like? How was his body changed? How’d he get in the room with the doors locked against the world? What would happen to Him now, to all of them?

Instead, Jesus tells them the point of his resurrection power is forgiveness.

Really? Forgiveness?

Then I recall the words he gasped from the cross. “Father, forgive them they know not what they do.”

All right. I know He took our sins to the cross. But giving us the power to forgive sins?

“If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

Good question. What am I doing with sins against me?

God often speaks to me in mental pictures. As I ponder this, I see an image of me, navigating life with my hands full, cradling scars from childhood when someone hurt me deeply or wounded me by neglect, or from a painful relationship, or rage against the one who abused my children . . . (It goes on, and I’m sure you can write your own list.)

With my hands full, I have nothing to help me make my way through the tough places,

or to receive any gifts,

or to offer assistance to others.

I have to ask, who is being hindered the most now by my holding onto sin against me?

In the light of this, holding on seems preposterous.

So I journey on, forgiving some easily. With the others, deeper wounds from those who should have been the most loving, I have struggled.

Sometimes all I’ve managed is wanting to let go. And for a while, that was enough. The beginning of that road.

But as I felt the call to grow, no amount of sheer effort would make it happen.

I’ve come back around to the breathing part. Jesus breathes his spirit on us to give us the power to really live. The life we were created to live.

It’s pure gift. As I open my hands and heart, and welcome that breath, something in me is transformed.

Lord, breathe on me, giving me the peace the world cannot give, and the power to let go of sins, mine and those of others that have burdened me for way too long. Thank you for new life power.

Is there a struggle on your journey?

Is this a Good Friday for you?

cross in dish by EZ
cross in dish by EZ

Isaiah 53:1-6 The Message

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,on him, on him.

crosses in dish by EZ
crosses in dish by EZ

Got hope?

What do you do with despair? When the wounds of childhood make trusting hard? When the pain of living steals hope?

When I was in the ninth grade, I wrote this poem.

Poem by Jane F Thompson
Poem by Jane F Thompson

Though I wasn’t aware of it, that ambivalence followed me through life. Until I finally embraced myself (see Fine Wine), my own pain in childhood, I was caught like a starfish on the Oregon coast, clinging to a rock, waiting for the tide to come in.

When I was a sophomore in college, floundering, wondering how to continue to live, I opened a book of T.S. Eliot poems to work on a paper for an English class. Going beyond my assignment, I discovered a division in the book (like between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible), beginning with “Ash Wednesday.” Eliot expressed my thoughts, doubts, hopes, fears and attempts at faith.

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign? . . .
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still. …

Line after line, Eliot transcribed the agony I experienced in just living. When I reached the last section, I wanted to holler, to cry, to run out under the sky.

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.

Somehow, Eliot’s finding peace in spite of identical ambiguity comforted me, gave me hope to go on. I was not alone.

That began my true faith walk, and what a long road it has been!

But then, life is a journey, isn’t it? In spite of the switchbacks and setbacks, push-backs and throwbacks, we drive onward.

Even the Israelites, led by God in the desert escaping Egypt, had to make the trek.

At this point on the way, I no longer pray to love with detachment.  I have no need to be alone to protect my heart. My cries are heard. I’d rather spend my life caring, than freeze alone on the rocks.

I can reach out to the one who experienced my pain, who walked the trail, who knows what it means to love and be hurt, to reach out, yet be be shunned, to cry alone.

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20 The Message (MSG)

And I have hope because my journey is into His arms.

They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

God made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
Psalm 18:18-24 The Message  (bold mine)

Where are you on your journey?