A LENTEN REFLECTION
The forty-day Lenten Walk Christians make this time of year can lead to all sorts of strange intersections of fate. You can be walking in your very own desert place, amidst the dry bones of unbelief and doubt. It is a place where you meet at 4 AM the inscrutability of God and simply permit God to take you by the hand as promised and share with him your deep sin and repent of it and reject it for yourself. It is a burden you cannot carry in the desert. The watering places are too far apart.
While doing so some of us find ourselves labeled as being on some sort of “altruistic kamikaze mission” or that “we have made our bed and must lie in it.” Both statements are deadly accurate. But neither are anything to trouble ourselves about. If anything they tell us that we are where God has placed us and that doing so and lying in such a bed we please that ultimate authority: God, Allah, Yawerh, the peace of Nirvana, the Great Spirit or Creator.
Two Christian scriptural passages met in headlong collision last night. The crack up was providential of course. And it has been glorious to behold.
The first is from Luke 9:23-26:
“Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves?'”
Then, from the opposite direction, much to my initial horror, there appeared another passage placed before my eyes and distinctly colliding with the first, from Philippians 2: 5-7:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form
did not regard equality
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, . . . ”
In some translations this is “he made himself nothing.” Hence the deep meaning of the observation of another that I was on some sort of “altruistic Kamikaze Mission.” Indeed I am. I want to lose my life and in the process save it. I want to dig deep into my soul and empty myself of any selfishness, an endless and ongoing life task undertaken daily. I want to totally abandon my will to God’s will. No need to be some kind of John Brown who thinks he is acting for God on Earth. This is a quiet, largely unseen operation of the soul, and with the aid and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Islamic tradition has much to teach us here. A faith born in the clean, harsh, stark, and barren desert places literally, this emptying of ourselves that the Apostle Paul asks us to do in Christ’s example actually is very close to the central Jihad of the Muslim. Muslim means in the very direct sense of things: “one who submits.” This submission is to the will of God and not ourselves.
The passages collide with a great soul wrenching crash. And then they become part of the mind’s reflection on what this time is all about for me.
By becoming nothing, we are left open by our God to come out of the desert and into a new place of the soul and be the servant that God wants us to be. This collision of scriptures can happen for us at any time it is needed to remind us of just who is in charge. It’s the central problem for me: keeping God in charge.
Thus emptied, being nothing, fully submissive to God’s will, I can then undertake to lose my life and find others observing I am on an “altruistic Kamikaze mission” in life. I know now I am on the right path and that God is holding my hand firmly.
Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
for Struggles For Justice