Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Tuesday is for Nesting: bearing each other's experiences

Portrait of You as the Good Samaritan
James B. Janknegt

The season of Lent matters beyond my own discipline and introspection.  Engaging in self-discipline only finds fulfillment to the extent the act frees us to notice those outside of our own inner circle.  To notice the cause of the weak, the marginalized, the diminished in our neighborhoods -- local and global.

For this reason, I hope to not only give up certain nourishments of mind and body for Lent, but to make space for others' in my thoughts, prayers, and actions.  This is a form of hospitality that James reminds us is the true sign of pure religion.  We often think well of people who claim to be spiritual rather than religious as some sort of badge of authenticity.  Truly, that statement should more often be spoken as a corporate confession.

Forgive us, God.  We and our fathers have sinned.  

In my blogging community [ht: bearing blog] this week, I learned the sorrow of the Granjus family in Knoxville, TN.  Eighteen-year-old Henry died last May of a drug overdose after many years of battling an addiction, despite the love and support of his entire extended family.  The grief of loss is compounded by, what appears to be, a miscarriage of justice by the local authorities.  For the past two days I have been reading this heartbreaking story, willing myself to hear the plea for justice and not close my ears to it.  

In the process I've been able to empathize more with the criticism I've received from my church family.  Those who feel that I am promoting death rather than life by making space in our services for prayers and songs of confession and lament in tandem with our proclamations and anthems of praise.  I realized that, perhaps, some people struggle with some of the same emotional distress I discovered in myself while reading Katie Allison Granju's almost-unbelievable account of being dismissed by the very institutions that should be providing protection and care. 

When I read her words, a sort of hardness enters my emotional being.  Her story represents some of my worst fears -- being disbelieved and unprotected -- and I find myself wanting to push those feelings away by refusing to enter the truth of her story.  I do not want to make room for her in the home of my understanding and experience.  I do not want to practice hospitality for these people I've never met.

Last week, my husband reminded me that what we're all most afraid of in this kind of discomfort is feeling alone.  When we traffic in the familiar, it's easier to feel Jesus and each other.  When we experience awkward and uncomfortable emotions, it's easy to believe that no one is with us, especially Jesus.  No wonder my critics keep using the word death.  

The truth is that Jesus is already there.  All that's missing when we refuse to enter the experience of another is us.  

Hospitality demands that I make room for those suffering injustice.  Hospitality in true worship demands that we make space for each other.  To move toward each other with open hearts and minds rather than dismissing and blaming each other for forcing us to face emotions and experiences that make us uncomfortable.  

In the same way Jesus freely entered our broken experience, let it be true of us toward each other.
Let it be so.

For that reason, today I make space on my blog for the story of Henry Granjus.  He breaks my heart and allows me to bear the cause of another. 

Linking with L.L. today...
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