Open Hands

I was contemplating Christ on the cross, today: in my mind’s eye I was watching Jesus die.  I was doing my best to absorb the experience, to see it as part of the unfolding narrative.  I distanced myself, as best as I could, from theologies as best as I could.

I turned my hands up, as I sometimes do.  There is something in this small act that feels like an act of openness.  It is a request, of God, to rain something down to me.

As I turned my palms outward, I saw Jesus’ hands, also turned out.  I had this sudden and striking realization…  Sometimes, when we open up are hands, we don’t get grace and love rained down on us.  Sometimes, they drive a nail through it.  And it seems like just maybe this is how it is meant to be: we are called to have the courage of accepting whatever it is that is happening.

 

The Great Return

Jesus carried the cross that he would die on.  Once, it had been boards which came from trees.  The trees had grown up, of course, in a forest.  They came from seeds which came from other trees, a cycle reaching backwards, millions of years.

At the very beginning, all things were made through Christ.  I don’t know how it worked or what that looked like.  But I do know that the  the beginning of all the stuff that ever would be began through him.

The very stuff that would some day grow to be those trees that he would hang upon.  The constituents of the nails that they would drive through his hands and feet.  At that time, in the beginning, the causes, forces, and elements were swirling around that would some day come together to become the people who were around Jesus, too…  Those who loved and hated him, those who betrayed him and tried to stand by his side.  A chain of events that would some day lead to those very people began then, too.

When I think only about Jesus dying, it seems like a betrayal: those things that began through him turning and twisting backward, returning to kill him.  But when I think about his victory through returning, it takes on a different character.

Those things that left Jesus at the beginning of time, they swirled around, took on different shapes and forms, appeared to be so far from their Source.  But then, at the cross, they came back to their orgin point.  It seems like a sort of homecoming.

Thoughts something like these were swirling in my head as I meditated this morning.  As it always seems to be, they weren’t exactly these.  I have not done them justice.  Partially, because here, I am trying to justify and contextualize them.  As I was breathing in silence this morning, this understanding simply was: unassailable and perfect.

Every Breath You Take

I used to think that the pattern of life-death-resurrection was powerful because it only happened once.

I am learning that the reason it is powerful is because it never stops happening.

The life of summer, and the death of fall and winter, leading back to the rebirth of spring.  The life of the day, leading into the death of night, back into the resurrection of dawn.  The life of our hopes, leading to the death of our dreams, and somehow, after a dark time, we begin to hope again.  The life as the Greek City States, and then their defeat in the Peloponnesian Wars, and then a sort-of resurrection of their beliefs in ideas in the Roman Empire.  The life of the a person, inevitably leading to their death, and yet the person lives on.  In an afterlife, I suspect, but regardless of all that, they live in the people they impacted, they live in because when they die the people who they once supported now take the roles that they had.

And perhaps more of all:

The life of inhaling.  The Death of exhalation.  And the resurrection because then it all begins again.  There is such power in our breathing!  Not only is our every breath an act of saying the unsayable name of God: also, every breathe is a reenactment of life, death, and resurrection; it points to the countless cycles that occur everywhere look, but most of all, it points at the cross of Jesus.

I have asthma.  And I hate it and it sucks.  But asthma is a teacher.  If I had never desperately fought for a breath, I think I wouldn’t know to value them so much.  If you have never had to fight to breathe in this way, I bet you can remember some time in your life when somebody got you just right, hit you perfectally in the solar plexus.  Do you remember the abject terror of having the air forced out of you, the terrifying fear that your lungs will never work again?

I think this all puts me in touch with something.  There is this moment, between the inhale and exhale.  Between every inhale and exhale.  It is a moment of death and terror.  It is a moment of emptiness.  It is a moment for me to hang dead on the cross.  I experience it hundreds of times a day.  And I think mostly I repress just how horrible it is.

But when we bring our attention to our breath, we are fighting this repression.  When we bring our attention to our breathe, we are being born, and dying, and then being reborn in evey single breath.  We are being crucified, killed, and reborn with Jesus, with every single breath.

Today, perhaps you would like to sit and meditate and breathe.  Some people find it helpful to touch a finger with a thumb with each breath: that tactile stimulation, of breathing and touching the pointer finger, then breathing again and touching the middle finger, and breathing again and touching the ring finger, and breathing again and touching the pinkie, and then going to the other hand…  Maybe you would like to give that a try today.

As you breathe, perhaps it is best if you think of nothing at all.  But perhaps you will think of Jesus: living, dying, and being reborn, with each breath you take.