I’ve been starting my days recently by speaking these words.
Not because I want to, but because grief is present anyways, and it pushes through the holes and cracks of my self without permission. If I name it first, perhaps it won’t sneak up on me and surprise me later on. Good luck with that.
This ritual is part of a longstanding practice within the Christian contemplative tradition called the welcoming prayer. I want to be a healthy person, so I’ve been trying it, but I wonder if it’s working. How do I know if it is working? I think I better identify now with the words “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus supposedly spoke these words in a hillside garden one warm night, so wracked with fear and despair that he is said to have thrown himself to the ground in front of his friends. I can count on my fingers the times I have thrown myself to the ground, and can still access the soul sick feeling I felt then. Do you ever kneel in the shower?
Frederick Buechner wrote about this moment with Jesus that “you feel that it was to himself that he was saying it as well as to them.” Christians have a hard time with this Jesus sometimes. If Jesus was God, what does it mean for Jesus to lose control in front of his friends, to beg for relief, to lash out in anger at his friends for not being more supportive? Perhaps it summons up the feelings of us as children, witnessing for the first time the humanity of our parents. The terrible moment when you realize your mother or father is just as scared as you.
We like to ignore this part of Jesus’ story; skip to the part where he bursts out of the ground like superman. We don’t like our God to be weak or scared. If there is ever a time to sit with this story though, it is now - a few days before Easter.
Perhaps if we face it, it will not creep out uninvited. Perhaps God wanted us to know that the most painful feelings we carry have also been carried by someone else; that we are not the first to crumble under the weight of being alive. That when we turn towards it, someone is facing it with us.
Welcome grief. Welcome, welcome.