Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"When you let Jesus in, He will make your life messy."

Can you tell that I'm in the midst of our annual catalog layout work? Too busy to see straight, working evenings and weekends so we can make hay (and the printer's deadline) while the sun shines. While still, I reflect upon all the ways God manifests himself to us, especially in what I witnessed during my time with my family recently as spiritual warfare was unleashed over my father's soul (and, I believe, my mother's as well).

In that spirit, I am reposting something from Easter 2008, for those new to the blog and also for those of us who need reminders that sometimes we've gotta step out in faith ... even (and perhaps especially) when we don't see any visible results.

Therefore, I present for your consideration (original comments box remarks included) ....

"When you let Jesus in, He will make your life messy."

No. Freaking. Kidding.

I'd been having my usual Easter. Doughnuts. Coffee. Leaping to my feet to frenziedly prepare before throwing myself out the door so we could get Grandma and get to Mass. Crying while singing the Alleluias ... which is common enough that the kids don't even get embarrassed any more.

I was bemusedly thinking about Peter and just how it must have felt to hear Mary Magdalene come through the door saying that Jesus was gone. Thinking about how maybe he and the beloved disciple had been not only feeling devastated and forlorn but also how possibly they had been trying to figure out just what all those things Jesus said about being "raised on the third day" really meant. And then getting the first clue, that first little glimmer that something more, something wonderful might happen ... as they raced to the tomb. Thinking about how it would feel to allow yourself to dream about the possibility of seeing once again your best friend, your teacher, your master ... and to be able to apologize for the betrayal, to tell him how much you loved him. I was thinking that I knew Jesus just a bit better than before as a personal friend so I could get a better idea of what that would be like. You get the picture. I was putting myself in the moment.

Now, not that this reading would be unusual at all for Easter morning, but I was caught unawares when suddenly I started paying more attention to what was going on as the Gospel reading began.
John 20: 1 - 9

Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag'dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."

Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.

Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Ooooo ... synchronicity.

Father L. topped off the amazing homilies I'd heard over the Easter Triduum with one yesterday that had Tom turning to me and saying, "Wow. I wanted to stand up and say, 'Amen, brother!'" (And that's no easy feat!)

He was on fire, speaking with intensity about the need to think outside the box of our ideas about God. About a third of the way in, I found myself intently praying for all of those listening, thinking of how many were there that only came twice a year, praying especially for my sister-in-law who talks about becoming Catholic but never comes to mass. For her husband, Tom's brother, for whom "lukewarm" would be a step forward. Wishing they had listened to Grandma about coming to Easter Mass or that they had accepted Tom's phone message inviting them and that they just hadn't made it in time to move beyond the edges of the church, where so many stood. Knowing that they weren't.

Listening, but focussed on praying, I was suddenly jolted to complete attention when Father L. said that when Jesus comes into your life, He will make it messy. I nudged Hannah, and said, "Ain't that the truth?" Turning back, I saw Deacon Ken who knows me quite well enough to know how I related to that "messiness". He was smiling at me. Yep. Of course, we're a lot alike in that way.

I returned to my praying, feeling it and also thinking in the back of my mind that this must be the Holy Spirit because it sure wasn't like me. Father L continued, practically beseeching people to let Jesus into their lives, into their hearts, to let it get messy. Because that's where real life is found. If we'd have been a difference sort of church, there'd have been an altar call ... wow.

So I'm still listening, still inspired, still praying hard. Forgetting one thing. I'm part of the congregation. That prayer to let the messiness in ... oh, right, it applies to me too.

You see it coming?

We get home and do some frenzied dashing around because Tom's brother and sister-in-law (yep, the very ones for whom I was praying) and another couple have a long-standing tradition of many years of coming over for Easter dinner. I'm peeling potatoes, pulling deviled eggs from the fridge, directing the girls with plates and silverware ... the general marshaling troops. Busy. Mass is done. We're moving on to real life.

So, everyone comes over and I've had a couple of glasses of champagne, a glass of red wine, and we're eating while sitting around the living room. It turns out that my sister-in-law and I are sitting in the one corner of our living room where private conversation aside from the group could actually take place. We're talking about movies, about politics, about Grandma's memory but the fact that she never forgot about getting to mass or stations of the cross for Holy week. I told her that Grandma didn't go to the Good Friday mass but probably wouldn't have liked the chanting of the readings. So I described it some. She closed her eyes and said, "I would have loved that."

And then we're talking about grocery shopping at the Central Market, trading stories about the rare bad cashier or bad customer service and what we've done. We're talking about how much we like the Sudanese checkers (who I have mentioned before). Out of the blue, I hear myself telling her about the time that I went to one of them one day when it had been crowded in the store, only to find myself one of the few people checking out.
I mentioned how surprised I was to the cashier and he looked at me, paused for a moment, and then carefully said, "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." I looked at him for a second (thinking did he just say what I thought he said? and did he mean it in the way I think he did? you know ... Biblically?) and then said, just as carefully, "If only we could all live our lives according to that." It was like a secret handshake or something. And then we both relaxed and started talking about ... yep ... God and how he has seen that we all talk about religious tolerance in America but what he has seen is that it means that no one can say anything or they will be persecuted. An amazing conversation to have when buying groceries on a Saturday morning.
She's listening and smiling and I realize that I'm (once again) doing a Happy Catholic all over someone ... and this time it's my sister-in-law.

And then I'm in the kitchen getting coffee ready, cutting cake and talking to Hannah. My sister-in-law comes in with some dirty plates. I apologize for laying that religious story on her and say, but sometimes that stuff just happens to me. Tom used to not believe me but then he witnessed it. And I'm suddenly telling her about the time that he and I both came out of our offices when the Fed Ex lady came.
She is always cheerful and smiling and I tell her that she is such a nice change from the other Fed Ex people who can be not very happy at all. She says that she is going to speak to them. I tell her that I don't want to get anyone in trouble. She then says that you can never tell when your smile might be the one good thing a person sees all day and that it might make a big difference. She is looking right into my eyes and I look right back and tell her that is very true, we never know what we do that might make a huge difference to the people around us.

She then looks at me and says with emphasis, "I'm a Christian too ..."

Uh huh.

After she left, I turned to Tom and said, "See?" He threw up his hands and said, "I can't believe it but I saw it."
My sister-in-law is nodding and smiling.

Then Hannah told a story about a man who acted on God's prompting in a way that didn't make sense to him at the time but later turned out to have deeper meaning ... of course, now I can't remember it (worst of all she said that I told it to her and I didn't remember that either ... oh well).

That prompted my extremely sketchy retelling of this wonderful story about Beth Moore and what God had her do for an old man at the airport.
I say this because I want to tell you it is a scary thing to have the Spirit of God really working in you. You could end up doing some things you never would have done otherwise. Life in the Spirit can be dangerous for a thousand reasons not the least of which is your ego.
My sister-in-law is nodding and smiling.

And then I don't know why ... because it's like in the back of my mind I'm asking myself, "Why are you doing this?" ... but I tell her about the time that my CRHP team and I were getting ready to leave the church and go present the CHRP retreat to the next group of women.
I'm standing next to Holly and the thought has popped into my head several times that I need to hug her. Not that Holly isn't a very sweet and huggable person but it's not as if I'm just going to randomly hug her out of the blue. Finally, the third time that thought pops into my head (more like "an order" actually), I turn to her and hug her and say, "This isn't from me. This is from Jesus. It wasn't my idea." (Nothing if not gracious, right? ha!) Holly looks startled and says, "All morning I've been wishing and wishing that Jesus was here in real human form to put his arms around me so I could feel him."
My sister-in-law is smiling and nodding ... and then I think about what I just said and I know just what kind of wacko I sound like and so I mentally cringe and apologize and say that I don't know why I started telling these stories ... she says, "No, no, it's fine."

When she leaves the kitchen, I turn to Hannah and say that I can't believe I just dumped faith all over the place like that. Hannah leaned forward, looked at me intently, and said, "Mom, I think she needed to hear it."

Oh. Yeah. Maybe but at what cost? What about my ego? Hmm? I have to face sister-in-law again without being under the influence of champagne and a bunch of "faith-ish" stories of the moment. What about that?

Anyway, we move on and the guests leave, Hannah and her friends drive off to A&M, Tom and Rose clean the kitchen, and real life goes on.

So I'm having one of those nights that is becoming more frequent of tossing myself into a state of complete consciousness by 3:00 a.m. (ah, age ... ). I'm thinking about myself and sister-in-law, about Fr. L's homily ... and then I get it. That fervent praying I was doing was for everyone who was there. Which included me.

That we'd let Jesus take us outside the box. That we'd let Him make our lives messy. That we would completely commit ourselves to Him. Which includes telling stories that might embarrass us later ...

So far, so good ...

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