Transformed by Struggle

It is a fool’s hope to review Joan Chittister. So I won’t. But I wanted to capture my reading of her book Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, and the best way to do that was to locate her own words for the task. Her book is both a small view into a painful experience for her and a series of articulations about struggle and the accompanying gifts which come from those respective struggles.

I think this quote snatches the book in a bite. I hope you find it enticing enough to pick up a copy:

The important things in life, one way or another, all leave us marked and scarred. We call it memory. We never stop remembering our triumphs. We never stop regretting our losses. Some of them mark us with bitterness. But all of them, can, if we will allow them, mark us with wisdom. They transform us from our small, puny, self-centered selves into people of compassion. For the first time, we understand the fearful and the sinful and the exhausted. They have become us and we have become them as well. We recognize the down-and-out in the street who mirrors our despair. We commiserate with the anger of the marginalized. We identify with the invisibility of the outcast. We can finally hear the rage of the forgotten. We are transformed.

From Scarred by Struggle (pg 102)

A Prayer From The Chapel

This prayer was adapted from Nouwen’s Open Hands and was in the chapel a few weeks ago:

Dear God:

Speak gently in our silence.

When the loud noises of the outside world,

And the loud inner noises of our fears

Make You seem so far away;

Help us to know that You are still there–

Even when we can barely hear you.

Help us cling to that still, small voice

That says, “Come to me, all you who are

Weak and overburdened,

And I will give you rest–

For I am gentle and humble of heart.”

God, let that loving voice be our guide this day.

May we find rest in Your love,

And bring that love to others.

We ask now for healing

Of body, mind, and spirit,

In Your holy name.

Amen.

Advent Post #23

“He has filled the hungry with good things but sent away the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:53).

God loves rich people, even though this verse wouldn’t strike the early rich readers in antiquity as an invitational one. In fact, the verse is an extremely merciful one toward the rich person. The truth about Jesus, for anyone who looks at him seriously, is that he doesn’t intend to send anyone away. Sending away is seldom his posture.

More often, people leave him. He doesn’t generally send people away. Notice that throughout his ministry he hardly said “Get away from me.” Rather than that, he brought people in. He invited people to discussion. Sometimes he was irritated, angry, and frustrated, but in those feelings, he never really put people out. He stayed with people in their stupidity, arrogance, and misdirection.

There was the young lawyer who wanted to know how to gain eternal life, the one who had mastered the commands, and who, with perhaps good pride, wanted to know “what else do you have for me to do, Jesus?” Jesus didn’t send him away. The call upon the man’s life did. He had to give up some stuff and we wonder if it was too much for him. We could say that about all the people who didn’t follow Jesus.

Mary’s song forecasts this. She says that God has filled and that God has sent away. God has provided for those who were humble or hungry. When you’re poor–which is lower than broke and much lower than “I don’t have what I want”–you’re usually hungry. You need God to provide, to make ways outta no way, to create meals when there aren’t groceries. When you’re rich, you choose what to eat.

Who does God bring closer? It’s a simple question with an unsettling answer. God pulls closer those who need, those who are without. In Mary’s language–which is poetic and musical and not to be treated in the same ways as we’d treat doctrine–that means the alternate behavior is to “send away”. But rather than God sending the rich away, I think of God, especially in the ministry of Jesus, as opening room after room for the rich. “There’s a place for you,” I see Jesus living.

As he goes after the forsaken, he opens his hand to those who have. He pursues the rejected, and he’s hospitable to the rich. Only he can do this. Not even his mother can do it perfectly, but he does. He still does. And we aim to live like him. God, during these days when Christmas is coming, grant us the ability to do what the Savior does, to go after those most put out and to be open to those may not come.

Reminder

The object of idolatry is not really the point here. It is the war of wills that any genuine spiritual experience–and you will know such an experience is genuine by the extent to which it demands uncomfortable change–sets off inside the heart and mind of the one who has it. Every man has a man within him who must die.

From Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss (pgs. 131-132)