Lenten Devotion - day 14
Some days these letters pour out, and sometimes I am not even sure what to say. What do you need to hear? What does anyone need to hear?
I find it a harder question than I should. What do I need to hear? If pressed to answer I would probably respond with what I want to hear.
I want to hear everything is going to be okay. Doesn’t everyone want to hear that? Or is that just me projecting my own desire for security and stability on everyone? And what do I mean by okay?
We know we need certain things. We need adequate shelter, clean water, clothing, food, and healthcare for our physical bodies. Anything more is what I want I suppose. While driving down the freeway to an appointment today, I thought how much it felt to me like I need a car. Then I thought it was silly. For thousands of years humanity didn’t need cars, and then we created them and wonder how we ever lived without them.
I don’t need those things though. Certainly they make life easier… certainly they make life harder too. Somehow we become slaves to so many of the things that “make life easier.”
But, more than physically what do we need? Emotionally and psychologically we need love, connection, and relationships. So many people are lonely these days. We have so much stuff, but not enough connection and relationship and love.
Spiritually we need the same things we need psychologically. We need love, connection, and relationship with the Divine reality.
However, when I think of how I want everything to be okay, I usually mean I want a world free of suffering. I want a perfect world. Then I find myself lamenting that the world isn’t perfect, and how it will never be perfect.
This is something that many spiritual teachers have recognized and talked about. The Buddha taught that the root of suffering is attachment to our desires and our aversion to pain. When we become attached to the idea of everything being okay, we can become closed off to the full spectrum of human experience, including the difficult and painful parts.
Jesus knew the importance of embracing the reality of suffering and pain in our lives. He spoke about the importance of loving our neighbors as ourselves, even when they are suffering or in need. In doing so, we can connect with others on a profound level and experience the transformative power of love and compassion.
I should note that when the Buddha speaks of suffering I think he meant the suffering of the mind when we are attached to things. When Jesus spoke of suffering he meant the pain of the body. In their own ways they both knew inner peace that comes from embracing pain with loving kindness.
Rather than denying or avoiding the painful realities of life, Lent takes us to the cross, where there is no denial or avoidance. Instead there is pain, and love embracing it. This is why all spiritual traditions teach us to lean into much of life’s pain, and to encounter the meaning and holiness that is often found therein. This is a challenging and sometimes painful process, but it also leads to a deep sense of connection and love that transcends our desire for everything to be okay.
So let us walk to the cross together, and be open to the reality of our pain, and the pain of others. But may we do so while cultivating compassion and empathy for ourselves and for others, even when things are not okay. Then, at the cross, I know we will find solace and connection in the transformative power of love, even amidst the challenges of life.
Until tomorrow my friend,