The Well

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.

— Psalm 116:12-18

Good Friday. At first blush it seems cruel to call the day of a vicious injustice “good.” But such is the paradox of the Paschal mystery I am called to meditate on this weekend. I understand there is no resurrection without the passion — they are two sides of the same coin. The Paschal mystery is a spiritual dialectic through which our own salvation is made possible.

I’m not talking about just an afterlife kind of salvation. I’m more interested in the here and now salvation that the Paschal mystery delivers. There is a lot of power in having the ability to embrace the pain of a life lived as a sacrifice for the good of others. There is a strength in being able to take the worst that life can give you and maintain your eyes of love and sign up for even more. There is a freedom in being uninterested in avoiding pain if it means being able to love. The person who can do that, the person who can look into the eyes of the person who is persectuting them and still love them is a spiritual badass.

Today in my prayer I celebrate Jesus, a superlative spiritual badass, who unlocked this mystery on this day and laid it before us, showing us the way to an untold power and freedom.

The closest I’ve come to this kind of freedom is when I hold my kids. A while back I was holding Petunia who is such an adorably cute little thing you just want to hug her 24/7. At this moment she was hugging me back, her head on my shoulder, her little hand patting my neck. Harder to think of a more loving happy time. In that moment I had a flash thought that said to me “Each child you hold like this will in the course of growing up cause you great suffering. You will cry bitter tears. You will be consumed with worry and fear on her behalf. You will tear your hair out in frustration. You know this.” And in that same moment my internal response was to think, “Well, it scares the shit out of me to think about it, but if that’s the price of being there for this one person, to watch her grow up, to love her, then I’ll cry, I’ll fret, hell I’ll die. Bring it on.” And so I hugged her tighter, hoping that my response will always be to hug her tighter.

But that’s relatively easy. The greater test for us is Speedy.

Speedy comes to us with emotional problems from abuse, possibly attachment problems. I hold him all the time too, but sometimes I have to hold him to keep him from hurting himself or others, to shield him from his own rage.

In those moments it is all too obvious the pain he will bring us. And it’s not very obvious to us that it will get better. And we are still in the process of adopting him, so the temptation to give up is there like a serpent in the back of my mind. And so deciding to love him in that moment, when he is screaming at me and spitting, I have an inkling of what a salvific badass Jesus must have been.

After these episodes, I hold him and tell him that there is nothing he can do to make us stop loving him (but we won’t let him hurt himself or others) and we will never send him away. We tell him that we’ve seen his worst and we still love him. And it feels a little bit like a lie, because I don’t feel it, because I’m saying it over my fear and anger and worry about what Speedy has in store for us. Saying it is an act of Faith. Saying it is saying “Yes” to certain suffering on his behalf.

And being able to say it is only made possible because Heidi and I can drink from the well of strength that Jesus dug for us on this day. That’s why this is a Good Friday for me.

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