Maunday Thursday Spiritual Practice: Brokenness

When God Walks Away: A Dark Night Companion

When God Walks Away: A Dark Night Companion

Each day of Holy Week, I will post spiritual practices from my book, When God Walks Away. The book (pictured) likens the dark-night journey to the events of Holy Week. Since engaging with art can be a spiritual practice, you will notice references to music, films, and visual artworks in addition to more traditional forms of spiritual discipline.

I hope these practices provide nourishing soul food as you make your way toward Easter.

Books:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee: Okay, this is not on my list of favorite light-reads. But George and Martha, in their bizarre, destructive relationship, are the ultimate marriage cautionary tale.

Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle: Marriage is seen as melody—not a falsely sweet tune, but one that plumbs disturbing depths while remaining true to the original composition. L’Engle ignores cultural marriage taboos and opens a window into her forty-year marriage from beginning to end.

Film:

A Beautiful Mind directed by Ron Howard: Promoted as the story of Nobel prizewinner John Naish, the film celebrates love’s power. Amazing as Naish’s determination and discipline is, his wife is the film’s hero. Can love do the impossible? A Beautiful Mind says YES!

The Emperor’s Club directed by Michael Hoffman: A quietly promoted and played film, I still think on Emperor’s Club years after viewing it. As a teacher and minister, it blew me apart: have I set my sights on a select few, blind to the needs and gifts of others?

Endurance Exercises:

Discernment Practice: Label a sheet of paper: “To What Am I Called?” List all the ministries in which you presently serve—within your church and without. (Anything we do can be ministry if, in the doing of it, we serve others and honor God.) Set aside your list for two or three days while you ponder the question. Cull from the list activities that take your energy from what God is calling you to do.

Dark Night Generosity: For your congregation, take on a simple project or create an artwork that shares what you are learning on your Dark-Night journey. You may choose to write a Bible study, create a banner, or plant a garden.

Music:

“Blackbird” by The Beatles: “Flying on broken wings”—who can live long in this world and not feel her heart rise at such words? Brokenness is its own beauty; less self-absorbed, more dependent on the grace of the wind, we fly freer.

Visual Art:

The Glass of Absinthe by Edgar Degas*: Ever felt more isolated in someone’s company than if you’d truly been alone? In this moment, Degas’s couple sits side by side in utter isolation.

The Dance by Henri Matisse*: Painted in vibrant colors, this canvas celebrates both individual—male and female, the stumbling and the graceful, the energetic and the lithe—and community. All clasp hands in a living, dancing circle.

* Find these artworks in your neighborhood or Internet library.

 

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Maunday Thursday

Book Cover

Book Cover

The night of Christ’s betrayal begins with an upper-room feast. Accompanied by the hollow clunk of pottery dishes stacked hurriedly for washing, and surrounded by the pungent odors of roasting lamb, bitter herbs, and baking bread, a covey of men look to their leader. One follower wonders when Jesus will make His move: Passover is a perfect occasion for rallying the crowds against Rome. Another one fantasizes about His position in the new regime. A third congratulates himself for being the first to recognize their rabbi as the Messiah. One man fingers the silver coins in His hip purse.

Jesus motions them to silence, then looks each one dead in the eye and says, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer.”

And so we return to the night of Christ’s betrayal. Sitting at table with the twelve, serving them His body and blood, Jesus knew their hearts. He knew Peter, all bluster and bragging, would deny him before Friday’s dawn. He knew Judas had already spun a web of intrigue that would trap and kill them both. Yet He said, “I have eagerly desired to celebrate this meal with you.” Jesus wanted these men with Him. Did they understand what was in His mind? No. But they could, even with their limitations, accompany Him. As a human, Jesus needed human touch. He asked them to wait in the garden, to keep vigil through the night. Not to leave Him alone.

I, too, knew the desolation of aloneness. While the Night’s agonies were upon me, I spoke to few people; its intimacy and mystery drove me to silence. But, in addition to my husband, David, I did share with two women, both skilled in spiritual direction. Responding to my expressions of loneliness and confusion, one of them said simply, “I’d say I was sorry if I didn’t know the result.” Her discerning response fortified my parched soul with a taste of hope.

 

When God Walks Away: A Dark Night Companion excerpt