Yesterday I was reminded, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” We are invited to a season of self-examination and reorientation that precedes Easter. But if, in committing ourselves to the way of the cross, we come to see our lives as a burnt pile of failings and regrets, we have missed something crucial about Jesus’ way.
Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor.
Consider the life of the One who endured such personal attacks and hostility from sinners so that you will not grow weary or lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3, The Voice
The path to the cross, the period of Lent, is a process of perfecting faith. In that process, I remember that my pride, my ambition, my legacy in this world will return to dust. But, this path also invites me to set aside the accusations – whether from outside or within me – that my life is worthless on account of how I haven’t succeeded or what I can’t accomplish. It looks deeper, past the overpriced fuel for the hourglass of the universe, to the real core in the middle of me. In a surprise twist, through these practices of self-denial, I find my life. Right below the surface of the scary truth I burn away is the certainty that I am God’s Beloved.
When I see this, I follow, not on a doomed course of shame towards an abyss of forgetting, but for the joy that is set before me. Because I am the Beloved, and the way of Jesus’ is the way to the one who loves me.
Henri Nouwen says,
Jesus heard that voice, “you are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” And it was that voice that he clung to as he lived his life. And people praised him, and people rejected him; and people said “Hosannah!” and people crucified him. But Jesus held on to the truth: Whatever happens, I am the Beloved of God. And that is who I am, and that allows me to live in a world that keeps rejecting me or praising me, or laughing at me, or spitting on me. I am the Beloved. Not because people say I’m great, but because I am the Beloved even before I was born. And, dear friends, if there’s anything I want you to hear… it’s that what is said of Jesus is said of you. You have to hear that you are the Beloved Daughter and Son of God.
May we hear and believe this, whatever happens. May we know that joy in this journey.
Here is our beloved brother Henri, who helps me believe:
*the title of this post is a reference to this song, which I have probably mentioned before, and will probably again.