Pursuing the Faithful One: Reflections on the Fifth Week of Pentecost

The Gospel Text for the fifth week of Pentecost, Mark 5:21-43 (CEB)

21 Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. 25 A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse.27 Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. 28 She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. 29 Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

30 At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.

33 The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34 He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?”

36 But Jesus overheard their report and said to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting.” 37 He didn’t allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John, James’ brother. 38 They came to the synagogue leader’s house, and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” 40 They laughed at him, but he threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was. 41 Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.” 42 Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was twelve years old. They were shocked! 43 He gave them strict orders that no one should know what had happened. Then he told them to give her something to eat.

In the previous text for the fourth week of Pentecost we found that, true to Mark, the identity of Jesus and the nature of the kingdom is in view. Jesus, as the Messiah and liberating King, calls his disciples to ‘faith’ – to recognition of who he is and faithfulness to his kingdom. Jesus does this because, even as the forces of evil gather, even in the presence of disbelief and disobedience, even in the presence of faithlessness, from the moment of his testing in the wilderness and baptism – Jesus, himself, stands as the Faithful One. In the text for the fifth week we find the stories of two separate people, Jairus and a very sick woman, who, believing that he can bring healing in their respective circumstances, come in pursuit of the Jesus the Faithful One.

Kingdom Happens!

What we find in these stories is what scholars sometimes call a ‘Markan sandwich’. What this means is that one story (the woman with chronic bleeding) is wrapped up inside another (the story of Jairus and his daughter). What this means is that these stories exist in what Ricoeur calls “intertextuality” (157)* – that these stories are meant to be read together and each gains meaning from the other. Actually we find a sense of intertextuality among all the stories and parables of Mark’s Gospel. We find that we are being moved ever closer to the great reveal with Peter in chapter 8, or what is really better put ‘the great confession’ of Christ’s identity as the Son of God (what has been in actuality something of an open secret, what has been called the Messianic secret).

An important reminder we need to keep before ourselves is that neither Mark nor the other Gospels are for the purpose of simply teaching a life ethic (though there IS an ethic involved), or for ‘life application’, or so that we can become the best people we can be. The thing is, we can have ethics and life application and be people who do good things without Jesus. We don’t need the Gospels for this. In fact, if this is all we are aiming for we might as well just pick up some Dr. Phil or other self help literature. And this will certainly be far less intrusive than what the Gospels are aiming for.

Here Stanley Hauerwas comments helpfully regarding the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus; that the Sermon’s purpose is not mere ethic but Jesus, and that ‘what is taught should not be isolated and abstracted from the teacher’. Ricoeur comments similarly on Mark’s Gospel,

“What progressively happens in the Gospel is the recognition of Jesus as the Christ. We can say in this regard that the Gospel is not a simple account of the life, teaching, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but the communicating of an act of confession, a communication by means of which the reader in turn is rendered capable of performing the recognition that occurs in the text.” (162, emphasis in bold mine)

and

“…the kingdom of God is not what the parables [and stories] tell about, but what happens in parables [as well as stories].” (165)

In the coming of Jesus the Kingdom of God is happening … right now, right where you are, whatever you are doing, no matter how mundane … the Kingdom of God is happening, is inaugurated, in the person of Christ!

Repentence and Kingdom Orientation

From the beginning, Jesus comes proclaiming the kingdom of God. But Jesus and the kingdom are disruptive; they are interruptions to the status quo. As such, in proclaiming the kingdom Jesus calls upon his hearers to repentance and a kingdom orientation. Jesus and the inauguration of the kingdom calls into question all that we have previously believed about what the kingdom should be like, it moves us into a crisis of understanding or belief, and lastly into a second knowing or ‘faith’ on the other side as we stake our hope in the kingdom.

As one read the text(s), what Ricoeur calls the reader’s ‘productive imagination’ (160) is exercised by the surplus of meaning in the metaphor and narrative. We do not simply learn about the kingdom through a three point lecture, but we jump into and are actively shaped by something that is already on the ground. This ‘jumping in’ into the kingdom of God can be thought of as a conversion of the imagination. Such a conversion is not a one off thing, but gradual and continual and even slow. In this, interruptions to our routine, agendas, or life plans become occasions for us to die to ourselves and convert our imaginations toward a kingdom orientation even more.

It is this sort of repentance and imagination that enables us to see Jesus as the liberating King and to see where the kingdom is happening – where Jesus is and to follow him into wherever that may be. This, I think, is the kind of faith that Mark has been talking about all along. And we should well note that in the pages of Mark (as well as the other Gospels) that those who seem to ‘get’ Jesus almost intuitively are the ones that are outcast, oppressed, sick, diseased, grief stricken – ie, the suffering (like the woman and father in this story). Suffering it seems has the capacity to function as a hermeneutic of the kingdom enabling us to pursue the cruciform way of Christ.

We do well to take heed here, because our relative affluence may help us to be able to get all our theological ducks in a row and have all manner of debates, but it may also blind us from Jesus and the ‘happening-ness’ of his kingdom. Theology is a great thing and I, for one, embrace my identity as a theologian. But we should also be willing to call ourselves into question. We should also realize that our theologies serve as lenses that can help us see clearly as well as obscure. We do well also see that the story of our liberating King is also the story of a suffering King, a story of downward mobility for the sake of others. If we are going to follow Jesus we must follow him down. This is the cruciform way! Its simply amazing how threatening this is to many people.

Kingdom Intertextuality

A repeat of the previous Ricoeur quote may help us to understand the purpose of these intertextually related stories for us,

“What progressively happens in the Gospel [of Mark] is the recognition of Jesus as the Christ. We can say in this regard that the Gospel is not a simple account of the life, teaching, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but the communicating of an act of confession, a communication by means of which the reader in turn is rendered capable of performing the recognition that occurs in the text.” (162)

Mark here presents us with the story of two people, one a woman with a chronic illness and the other a man with a sick child (I can’t help but identify with these stories) who seem to, even if only intuitively, recognize Jesus. These stories are intertwined – one wrapped up in the other and meant to be read together. But there is another level of intertextuality at work in Mark’s Gospel. Not only are these stories intertwined but both together are wrapped in the Jesus story and the story of the inaugurated kingdom.

What we find I think, is that we are not simply called to recognize Jesus and the kingdom simply on our own. We, ourselves exist in an ‘intertextual’ relationship with each other. We follow Jesus into the kingdom and repentance not simply as individuals but as an interrelated community whose ‘texts’ and stories are interdependent. Not only this but our intertwined stories of suffering, like Jairus and the woman, are wrapped up in the story of the kingdom and Jesus the liberating King in what we might call a kingdom shaped, cruciform intertextuality. May we seek the way of the kingdom, may we pursue the Faithful One together.

*All page number attributions are from Paul Ricoeur’s essay ‘The Bible and Imagination,’ in Figuring the Sacred.

Prayer for the fifth week of Pentecost

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Recognizing the Faithful One: Thoughts on the Fourth Week of Pentecost

Note: Paul Ricoeur is one of my favorite philosophers and I had planned a much more full interaction between the text below and his thought, particularly his ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ and ‘hermeneutical arc’. This did not materialize as I had hoped. But because I need to get caught up with these (and some other things) I’m going with a seriously truncated version of what I had originally planned. Despite the lack of a more substantial engagement, hopefully those familiar with his thought can see the Ricoeurian undertones.

The Gospel Text for the Fourth Week of Pentecost, Mark 4:35-41 (CEB)

35 Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.

37 Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”

39 He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. 40 Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”

41 Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

A Note on Hermeneutical Horizons

I received some trenchant feedback via email concerning my previous lectionary reflection about my statement about the parable of Jesus,

they first and foremost tell us about the nature of the kingdom of God and the identity of Jesus before they tell us anything about us. Or we could say that whatever they tell us about us, they tell us about ourselves in relation to Jesus and his kingdom. Jesus and the kingdom of God first, us second.”

To make a long email short, my critic seemed to have two main concerns: first that I was saying that the text says nothing about us and second, that I had hindered one’s ability to ‘immediately apply’ (their words) God’s word to our life. To this I simply repeat my contention that the parables say something about Jesus and his kingdom before they say anything about us. Again, its not they say nothing about us, but what they say about us is within the context the kingdom and liberating kingship of Jesus. I would also say here that it is, in actuality, within this kingdom context that we truly see ourselves as we are (for good or bad).

Second, I would question the immediacy of the text most readers of the Bible simply assume and the way so many are driven to ‘life application’ that is so often displayed. There is potential for misunderstanding here so let me try to be clear. I am not saying that we can’t ever understand the text, nor am I saying that Scripture has no bearing on our lives. What I am saying is that typical evangelical readings of the Bible seriously lack any sort of contemplative or hermeneutical patience in which we allow the Spirit to apply the Scriptural text to us and form us.

There are three main horizons, contexts, or ‘worlds’ involved in our reading of the Bible – the world behind the text, the world of the text, and the world of the text. Most Christians it seems jump straight to our present context, or the world in front of the text. But without the patience to ponder and spend time in the other two worlds or horizons, our reading will be skewed and we will be severely temped to force ‘life applications’ out of the text ourselves rather than listening to the Spirit in the text. We need to slow down and learn hermeneutical patience.

Got Faith?

These same concerns are at play in the text at hand, where Jesus calms the storm. I can’t count how many sermons I’ve heard that treated this text as mainly saying something about the disciples and us – that we should have ‘faith’, meaning that we should not question and that doubt is bad, bad, bad. However, I am going to stick with my hermeneutical rule of thumb and say that we should read this parable firstly in the context of what it is saying about the identity of Jesus and the nature of his kingdom. I am also going to contend that by not reading the text this way we not only misunderstand faith (and doubt), but in the end we also are far too harsh on the disciples (and others that fail to display what we think of as true ‘faith’).

Even today, boats on the Sea of Galilee have cause to worry about high winds and waves swamping boats. So the disciple’s concern here was not misplaced. But this story is not simply about danger and rescue. Mark’s readers likely would have heard other and older references in the text. They may have thought of Jonah who was disobedient and thrown overboard during a great storm. Or perhaps they thought of the Exodus (a common theme in the gospels) when God made a way through the sea. But also they may have thought back to the creation stories where God brought order to the chaos and God’s world emerged from the waters. There is also the Psalms (65:7, 89:9, 93:3-4, 107:23-30) where the God who is Lord over all calms the raging seas.

The fact here is that Israelites have been a sea fearing people rather than a seafaring people. The sea and the waters represent evil and chaos that is the absence of creation or that threatens to destroy God’s creation. In Daniel 7, the sea is where monsters came from. What Jesus has been teaching in parables and word-pictures prior to this, we now have in more tangible terms. The power that created in the first place is now being displayed in the inaugurated kingdom of Jesus – in the liberating King himself. Its not a kingdom like everyone wanted or expected, but Jesus tends to deconstruct what we think kingdom is or should be. And there are some noticeable differences. Jesus is a not a disobedient Jonah, but is instead obedient. And Jesus does more than vanquish some monsters, he calms the sea itself (which terrifies the disciples). We find here, that in the midst of disobedient and faithless Israel who do not recognize Jesus for who he is; Jesus, himself, is the Faithful One. This is the stuff kingdom and new creation is made of (notice at the end of Revelation there is ‘no more sea’).

In fact, Jesus seems so calm, even while the forces of evil threaten, that he sleeps. His disciples are put off by this and question whether he cares or not. Jesus responds with ‘Be still! Silence! Shalom! Peace!’ and the storm calms. What follows here is Jesus calling their faith into question. Before we are too hard on the disciples we should stop to consider how faith is being used here. We should keep in mind first that up until this point the issue at hand has been the identity of Jesus, about having ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear’ – not something one figures out by adding up clues, but something that is revealed.

Second, this story points us straight to Mark chapter 8 and the great confession by Peter about who Jesus is. Faith here is not simply mental assent. I would suggest that in the context of Mark itself that ‘faith’ includes recognizing who Jesus is as the Messiah, the liberating King and the Faithful One (remember that Jesus had given the disciples some extra tutoring sessions just prior to this) and that faithfulness is never far away from faith (remember also that many in the crowds would fall away after this). Jesus is asking them in the midst of the gathering forces of evil and de-creation, “Don’t you recognize who I am yet … are you not yet ready for faithfulness to the kingdom?”

Calling Ourselves into Question

These are the questions that are posed to us as well. Here we should, we must, be willing to call ourselves into question – we must greet ourselves with a hermeneutic of suspicion. And we must especially do this when we have not experienced suffering. In fact, to follow Jesus is to follow in the way of a suffering Messiah. We don’t really know the answer to the question Jesus asks us here until we encounter suffering. The experience of suffering becomes our ‘critical moment’ or ‘dark night’, calling us into question whether we like it not – maturing us from a precritical naïveté to a matured second ‘knowing’ on the other side (or what Ricoeur refers to also as a second naïveté).

In this, doubt may actually play a constructive role as a necessary part of the process of deepening our faith. Doubt can actually serve as the condition of faith and not its opposite (this of course assumes that we are not thinking of ‘faith’ here as rational assent in Cartesian terms but Spirit revelation of who Jesus is and faithfulness; nor is our end or telos modern ‘certainty’ but biblical hope and assurance arising from the story of Jesus). The practice of ‘calling into question’ is the only way to be sure that our preconceptions and unquestioned theologies do not become idols.

As Walter Brueggemann says,

“Theology that is ‘pre-pain’ must be greeted with suspicion.” (Interpretation and Obedience: From Faithful Reading to Faithful Living, 26)

We must point out that there is great hope here however as well. Mostly I have seen Jesus statement about the disciple’s faith, or lack thereof, interpreted as a stern rebuke. I don’t think this is necessary. Jesus here certainly is calling the disciples to take stock of their understanding and fittingness for the kingdom. But notice also, that despite the fact that the rhetorical answer to his question to them is ‘no’, Jesus does not send them away. This to me is BIG! Just like Jesus does not send the disciples away, neither does he send us away. We can have patience and we don’t have to have to understand it all right now. Jesus, the Faithful One, takes us as his followers – doubts and all.

Prayer for the Fourth Week of Pentecost

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Tribute to My (Courageous) Wife on Mother’s Day (2012)

A Note on Skipping Church on Mother’s Day

To start things off, a confession: As the heading confirms, yes, we are skipping church on Mother’s Day.

I will just be bluntly honest, Mother’s Day is difficult. From talking with others about their experience I know that we aren’t the only ones who experience Mother’s Day (and other special days) this way. It has been from the beginning … from the very first Mother’s Day after our first miscarriage when we lost Jordan Taylor in September 1998. I remember Christie asking if we really had to go to church that first Mother’s Day after losing Jordan. Since then we have lost two more babies (Micah Jayden in January 2001 and Noah Avery in January 2004) and had some failed adoptions (the by far most devastating being our little Kerioth Cherie who left our home in March 2003 – the details of this particular story are still almost impossible for me/us to talk about with others).

So, yes, Mother’s Day is hard … terribly hard, especially for Christie … and there is nothing wrong it being hard. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but not everyone seems to understand. Many well meaning folks express concern that we haven’t grieved in a healthy manner and ‘gotten over’ the loss of our babies. They bring up the so called ‘stages of grief’ as evidence of our need to ‘move on’. But while the stages of grief look good in a textbook they rarely mesh well with the actual human experience of loss and suffering. Still others are concerned that somehow Christie and I have a ‘codependent’ relationship. Besides questioning popular understandings of codependency … I would prefer the more biblical/theological ‘one flesh’ description of our marriage. A ‘one fleshness’ cultivated and fostered as much through the intimacy of shared suffering and grief as all the other forms of intimacy we share. Others are concerned that Damaris, who we refer to as our miracle child, will get the impression that she is somehow less important than Jordan, Micah, Noah, or Kerioth … or that somehow she will feel less loved simply because Mother’s Day is difficult. The simple fact here is that honoring the grief we feel and being honest about our lament in no way mitigates against our love for Damaris. One does not cancel out the other.

Now, I will admit to feeling a great deal of frustration about this and I try to balance it with the understanding that most folks are trying to express their concern for us as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. But on the flip side it genuinely feels like a good many, perhaps uncomfortable with our experience or perhaps trying to find something to ‘say’, try to play amateur psychologist, analyzing our grieving patterns instead of seeking to enter into our experience and journey with us. I recognize that it will be difficult for many to ‘get’ what we are doing here. A friend even told me once that it seemed un-American to skip church on Mother’s Day. As a way to foster further understanding, at least to a degree, what I would like to do is to invite the reader into our story and into our experience (and in particular the experience of Christie).

So what’s this all about? Consider for a moment three different calendars that can mark our time. The first one is the consumer calendar operative in American retail (secular or Christian) complete with its own holy days. Some of these holy days have been co-opted (ie, Christmas) and others are often popularly called ‘Hallmark Holidays.’ Mother’s Day is probably the most popular of Hallmark Holidays. I am not suggesting people shouldn’t honor their moms, wives, etc on Mother’s Day (note: Damaris and I were sure to get Christie a gift) but I do think its important to realize the place of Mother’s Day in the calendar and liturgy of American consumerism. This is the story in which it is embedded. The second is the liturgical Christian calendar which also has its holy days and seasons (Advent, Christmas, and so forth). By observing the seasons one is able to live into the story of Christ. The third calendar for us is one formed from the anniversary dates for losing our babies, along with their would be due dates, and along with the dates when Kerioth came to our home and then left. These dates embed themselves into our story forming a rhythm of grief and a constituting a liturgy of lament. What I want people to know here is that what we need is not to somehow ‘get over’ our grief but to contextualize our grief and experience in a bigger story – not the ill suited aforementioned consumer story – but the story of Christ. So, in our experience the liturgical Christian calendar and the rhythm of grief and lament go together.

The decision to ‘skip church’ on Mother’s Day is about more than it being difficult to be in a place where one’s grief or loss is forgotten, barely mentioned, or tagged on as an afterthought. For many who have lost children this is what Mother’s Day is like and what it will be like this morning in a great many churches. And today is not about hiding from the world, from church, or anything else for that matter. This may be surprising to some but ‘skipping church’ like this is a way for us it is way to both celebrate and lament. We do celebrate (we really do!) the gift and miracle that Damaris is to us. We lament that we are without our babies and that Damaris is without her brothers and sisters. We celebrate that the resurrection is true … and that because of this we will see our babies one day (true resurrection hope – this is why the consumer story won’t do, why we need the story of Jesus!). The anniversary dates come with their expected regularity and the world doesn’t stop nor does life cease moving because of them. It became clear then to us that we needed a day set apart for us to stop, to remember the loss, to share in lament, to celebrate our hope, and to honor the grief, to do the hard thing of celebrating and mourning at the same time. … as a family. Mother’s Day has become that day for us. We ask for your prayers on this day, and after this day we ask for the greatest gift we can think of – that those reading would continue to simply enter into our experience and journey with us.

She’s the Courageous One!

The picture here is the Mother’s Day gift Damaris and I got for Christie. (She has a running joke anytime a gift getting occasion come around about what Willow Tree figurine I am going to get her this time. Yes, I may suffer from a lack of creativity and I know Willow Trees are easier. In my defense, they are easier because she likes them and she doesn’t complain.) When I saw this one I knew that I had to get it for her. Its called ‘Courage.’ Since Christie is easily the most courageous person I know, I felt we couldn’t pass it up.

A quick story: Having recently seen the movie Courageous, a coworker of mine was praising me recently about how ‘courageous’ I am in taking care of Christie. Her take away from the movie it seems was that (in her words), “Men are naturally braver than women and are supposed to be courageous FOR their wives. Its not the wife’s job to be courageous, that’s the man’s job. That’s a part of his leadership and I see that you do that for your wife.” Needless to say, Christie and I intentionally practice mutual submission in our marriage so I have some qualms about what my co-worker said to me (as well as the movie itself). But rather than go into all that with my co-worker, I simply said this,

“Throughout our shared journey of grief and suffering, Christie has consistently amazed me. I can say without exaggeration that my wife is the most faith filled person I know. I learn more from her about what it means to follow our liberating King Jesus in the cross shaped way of suffering than from any other person or book. Thank you but I’m not the really courageous one. She is. She’s most courageous person I know.”

When we lost Jordan and she looked around for grief support surrounding miscarriage and found little to nothing, she courageously started her own online miscarriage support group ministry. From her experience of loss and grief she reached out to minister to others. That’s courage!

When she felt called to take her place as a woman in ministry and as a chaplain and when she and I were being ordained together by our church she handled opposition and disagreement from others in what can be a veritable minefield with poise and grace (I was honestly not so poised or graceful). Again, courage!

Many will know that in addition to grief and loss surrounding our babies she also has Fibromyalgia. Unlike you and I, there is not a day that she is pain free and some days it is completely debilitating (especially since we are without health insurance currently). Her experience here with grief, loss, and chronic illness has put her deeply in touch with her own frailty, fragility, and finitude – that is, with her own humanness. (This perhaps explains why she was/is such a good chaplain. It seems to me we need more pastors/ministers in touch with themselves in this way.) This takes courage!

Despite her own pain and suffering she can often be found rushing headlong into her concern for the other. I was amazed in her first year of CPE/chaplaincy at some of the cases that she recounted to me, especially the tragic ones involving children. Her dependence on God amazes me. This is courageous!

And the reality is that our experience can be kind of ‘heavy’ (this is what another chaplain I worked with told me one day). I have come to see how the invitation into our experience might be intimidating to others. My chaplain friend is right, our story is kind of heavy. We can’t help it, we can’t change our story. The reality of this causes me to sometimes hold back. I’m afraid of the reaction if I invite another into my story. Christie though, while not perfect, seems to do this more naturally than me. She takes the risk of inviting others into her experience and demonstrates an openness to the other that inspires me. I think this is why she is so good a spiritual care. Courageousness in action!

She demonstrates her courage through her engagement of the medical system (and now the disability process). Its an act of courage to even step into the ‘system’ and the inherent way that it acts to depersonalize and even dehumanize. And just recently she listened as a doctor at a local clinic told her that her Fibromyalgia was simply in her head and that the best prescription was a positive mental outlook. Despite her tears from, again, another doctor that seemed to skip the class on bedside manner and listening she stayed engaged and did not back down. This takes heavy doses of courage!

And she is always trying to move outward toward others as best she can to find places of community and incarnational space wherever she can. Since we moved back to Abilene she has found a place at a local yarn store (which of course involves knitting). She is an extension of Crosspoint and the story of Christ in this place – incarnation. But she also knows that the more of this she does the more ‘consequences’ there will be later when her body needs to recover. You might say that currently for everything she does there is an equal and opposite negative reaction in which she has to recuperate. This means she (and we as a family) must budget time and energy. Yet she presses on. I have rarely seen anyone as tenacious for community as my wife. Not only does this take vulnerability but courage as well.

Finally, she’s willing to admit she is afraid sometimes and that she needs the strength of another – particularly the strength of our suffering, liberating King Jesus. Oh that more of us were really courageous enough to genuinely do this and not pretend (I’ve been a hospital chaplain too so I know pretending when I see it). It’s perhaps a strange paradox that its takes a great deal of courage to admit that one needs help and that one feels afraid. But its this vulnerability and courage to come face to face with her own frailty, fragileness, and finitude that makes my wife one of the most genuinely human people I know. In my opinion we need more people in this world with this kind of courage.

So, as we take our day as a family to remember, to grieve, to celebrate – I simply want everyone to know that my wife is the most courageous person I know. And through her courageous faithfulness she teaches me more and more every day about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

[Edit: Be sure to read Damaris’ tribute to her momma here.]

May you all have a blessed Mother’s Day.