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The day before the day before

by davesandel on April 17th, 2019

The day before the day before

Wednesday of Holy Week, April 17, 2019

For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face. I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons, because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

– From Psalm 69

Judas said to the priests, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

– From Matthew 26

Over the years I’ve imagined myself into this story any number of ways: as Judas, as one of the other disciples, as the chief priest, as the people sleepwalking while all this takes place, as Jesus. The story’s rich and at the center of the center of our lives.

All this week, no matter who we are, we wait.

But I never thought about God waiting to see just what we’ll do. Henri Nouwen opened up that door for me on Palm Sunday, and it’s been open ever since. The Trinity waits. Father, Spirit, Jesus wait for us to make a move. Will I still shout Hosanna even when the chips are down? Or will I turn my coat around and choose the killing, label Jesus scapegoat, and throw him out of town? This is the play within the play, the Great Drama. Will we dance with Jesus or betray him?

How painful this must be for God. Nouwen writes:

In a way, the agony of Jesus is not simply the agony of approaching death. It is also the agony of being out of control and of having to wait. It is the agony of a God who depends on us to decide how to live out the divine presence among us. It is the agony of the God who, in a very mysterious way, allows us to decide how God will be God. Here we glimpse the mystery of God’s incarnation. God became human not only to act among us but also to be the recipient of our responses.

God receiving my response! Accepting it, no matter what – accepting ME, no matter what? Always holding open the invitation, knowing the dance will never end. Will God’s love outlast my excuses, temporizing and rejection? When he calls to me and I stammer, “Uh, well, maybe later, not right now” … will he call again?

The YES of God outlasts anything and everything I can do. Nothing’s gonna stop it. Nouwen understands that “precisely in that waiting the intensity of Jesus’ love and God’s is revealed to us.” Even in my most selfish life God’s love prevails.

So today, the day before the day before the cross, I sit, learning patience, in God’s waiting room. My wooden cross, polished with the oil on my hands, sits waiting with me in my pocket. I cross my legs, and watch each person as they wait, and then walk in. What is God doing with them in there?

Richard Rohr’s been there awhile, long enough to describe himself at least, and I think, me: there will be no more attempts to save the self by behavior, technique or devotion. “All you can do,” he says, “is wait and ask and trust. Here is where you learn faith and discover that darkness is the much better teacher.

“God is about to become real.”

The reality you call me into, Lord, is more than I imagine. But when I watch the birds sing and fly and shine in the sun, I want to join them. Maybe that’s just a little bit of what it’s like, joining you. As I walk in, and know even in the darkness how real you are, your joy abounds in me.

Henri Nouwen, “The Path of Waiting,” an excerpt from Finding My Way Home, 2001

Richard Rohr, The Naked Now, Appendix 1: Levels of Development, p. 165, 2009.

For great waiting room experiences, read “Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor, and two books by Taylor Caldwell: The Listener and No One Hears But Him.

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