Welcome to my Lenten reflection for the fifth week of Lent. (To view previous reflections refer to the list at right).
Each week’s reflection is drawn from a chapter of Days of Deepening Friendship. While it is not necessary to read these chapters to participate, it will likely enhance your experience. This week’s reflection is based on Chapter 32.
Let’s get started.
View this week’s video reflection:
Listen to this week’s audio reflection: Fifth Week of Lent: “What can Jesus teach you about engagement?”
Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. -John 12:27
We Christians usually have no problem thinking of Jesus as God in the flesh, that is, fully God. But we don’t really consider what it means that Jesus was also fully man. We like to think that he understood everything completely and knew ahead of time what would happen. We think of him as never being disturbed or tired or confused.
Since Jesus was human, just as we are, then he had to develop and learn, just as we do. His every day unfolded before him, and he received each day and worked with whatever happened. Some days he healed many sick and cast out demons, and other days he had to debate with quite educated religious leaders who wanted to figure him out or trip him up.
We know that Jesus spent much time in prayer, private time with his heavenly Father. He developed the ability to quiet his soul and listen for God’s voice. He did not hesitate to express to God his needs, his questions, his ideas for the next step. These are precisely the skills we need to learn.
As we see in the Scriptures, Jesus said, “My soul is troubled.” When Jesus engaged with God, he did so as someone who needed insight, comfort, and encouragement.
As we engage with God, we don’t have to be completely wise all at once. We don’t have to have all the answers. This journey of faith does not sail through life without encountering some troubled waters. We know that this is what happened to Jesus, and he is our companion in times of darkness and struggle.
Next week is Holy Week, when we will recount the great suffering of our Lord on the way to the cross. This week, let’s try to sit with Jesus and observe him as a person with needs like our own. Let’s sit with Jesus in the presence of God the Father and learn how to be daughters and sons who are active participants in this relationship.
A Spiritual Exercise for This Week
Jesus was born to an oppressed people in an occupied country. His parents were of modest means. The Scriptures tell us that he grew in favor with people and with God, that he was obedient to his parents. At age twelve he engaged the religion teachers in the temple at Jerusalem; probably from an early age he loved the Scriptures and the faith of his people. But he was a tradesman, trained under his father to be a carpenter. He never married nor had children.
How would you describe your life in a paragraph? Into what society were you born, and what shaped your early years? What resources did you receive from your family, whether personal traits or material goods? And what have you done to earn a living? Have you become a wife or husband, or a parent?
Jesus developed a relationship with God through the life he had and the resources at his disposal. He could have wished for a more sophisticated education (shouldn’t a Messiah be a highly esteemed rabbi?) or searched after the family life that was the norm for Jewish men. But his was a unique path, and he engaged it fully.
How might you take hold of your life with more confidence this week? What resources or bits of history have you dismissed or even despised? Can you see how those things may have prepared you for the tasks ahead? Can you receive the life you have—rather than the life you wish for—as a gift to be used to the fullest?
It can be difficult to accept the life we have and to think that we have everything necessary to live with great spiritual energy and purpose. Spend some time this week talking with Jesus about what helps or hinders your engaging with God.
I invite you to post your comments and questions and I will respond throughout the week. I will also be available every Wednesday from 10 am-Noon CST to communicate with you in real time. Don’t forget to join me next week (I’ll send a reminder).