Lent 2019 - WEEK 1 (March 10)

 

Psalm 91: Because he clings to me, I will deliver him. I will be with him.

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Clinging is not generally a word we use positively. Clinging is for parents peeling wailing children from their legs at daycare drop-off.  Clinging is for a relationship that has begun to feel suffocating.  Clinging is for me clutching onto my kids’ hands as we weave through thick Mardi Gras parade crowds.

Clinging usually happens when we are afraid, or stressed out, or when hope has become nothing more than a disappearing wisp.

What does God mean in today’s Psalm 91 when He promises “because he clings to me, I will deliver him”?  It’s a promise that can seem confusing, if not plainly false, especially taken along with the Psalm’s other promises: “No evil shall befall you; nor shall affliction come near you.” Because we do suffer. We are afflicted. From what, then, does clinging to Jesus deliver us?

About a year ago, I attended a funeral for a child. All that morning I had waffled on whether or not to attend, because I knew it would be deeply painful. There would be no tearful, tenderly charming eulogy of the sort that we hear at great-grandparents’ funerals.  There would be no display of photos chronicling the decades of a lifetime. There would be only suffering. 

As I entered the tiny chapel, my eyes fell immediately upon the tiny open coffin laid before the altar. Next to it sat the child’s mother, so close that the coffin was nearly on her lap. And indeed, the pain struck deep.

But as tears rolled, something else struck me as well, a visual allusion: the Pieta. The mother sat with her child in a posture similar to Mary after the crucifixion. And even more so than by her posture, I was struck by her faith, her grace, her strength.  Pieta strength. 

Pieta strength comes only from doing what Mary did at the crescendo of her agony—holding Jesus tightly in our arms, holding Him tightly against our hearts, clinging.  Pieta strength is strength that approaches paradox: fervent trust rising in the ocean of loss; faith made to glow in the fire of suffering; hope billowing in the storms of doubt. Peace in the pieces.

We want God’s promise to mean that we are safe from the specter of suffering and grief and loss.  We want what we indeed are made for—eternal life.  The oceans of loss, the fires of suffering, and the storms of doubt might indeed consume us if we looked for our fulfillment in a broken world.  

Clinging to our crucified Jesus, like Mary, means we go wherever He goes. This may mean through the cross. But it will always be into resurrection.


Written by Aimee MacIver

 

 
Shawn Williams