(This is the second post in a four-part series. To see my intro from Part 1 about my inspiration for this series, click here.)
It has taken me every bit of my forty years of life to see that God sent Jesus—God became human! – because we just couldn’t see how to live.
Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it is in our very nature to want what we cannot have, and to try to find a shortcut to getting there. The bible shares stories over many centuries of God warning us and telling us that there really are no shortcuts to the human experience; that shortcutting it would not get us what our truest selves really crave. And so God lovingly provided us examples to follow of people who tried really hard to do as he said: Abraham, Noah, Moses, David…the list is long.
God was very patient.
But to me it seems like we just couldn’t see what it was we were supposed to do. And so, after years and years and years of saying in essence, “Don’t make me come down there!” our behavior gave God no other choice but to do just that.
And so Jesus came.
It seems clear to me that Jesus’ actions in the Last Supper (and later on the Cross) are a “show and tell” of sorts on how to “take,” (or accept) our lives and “bless” them. The first definition of the word “bless” in most dictionaries is either “to hallow” or “to make holy.” Jesus accepted his life, up to and including death on a cross. That same act– though only recognizable to a few at the time– was also the best example of how to live a life of holiness.
For most of us, obviously, it’s not what we’d expect or choose.
But what does this look like for me? I wondered. How can I “make holy” my own life? Well, certainly adding prayer to my life, and following (as best I can) the rules of my chosen religion are a good and healthy start. But, for most of us, I think, those two things alone are just not enough to satisfy the deeper longing— The Holy Longing, as Ronald Rolheiser calls it—of our spiritual selves. In spite of ourselves and every common-sense notion we’ve been taught about hard work equaling success, at some point most of us (particularly in mid-life) are faced with the reality that any “success” that we are going to experience has largely already been achieved. It’s no surprise then, that at this point in our lives we are faced with a new choice. And the choice, as I see it, is to either wish and hope for something or someone to “save” me while I wallow in misery about my failings and shortcomings, or to accept and pick up the Cross of my life and begin my own journey to Calvary, following the Way.
And, perhaps to no one’s surprise but mine, I found a simple set of directions for heading there nestled in the verses of Matthew 5:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
From my vantage point now, forty years in, I see that this journey for my “second half of life,” as Richard Rohr calls it, is not one of addition but of subtraction. Rohr calls it Falling Upward. And what it has done for me is helped me realize that while I spent my earlier years striving to answer the world’s definition of success (Supermom, domestic diva, and volunteer extraordinaire); I have found freedom in this “second-half” of my life to let go a little. Let go of expectations (my own and others’). Let go of perfection. Let go of the world’s view of everything.
And in that letting go, I have found a new sense of freedom.
I am free to not take myself so seriously.
Free to try.
Free to fail.
Free to define success for myself, through God’s eyes.
And while I would have never guessed in my twenties that the road to success and the road to Calvary are the same road, my spirit now sees the truth in it. And with that realization I have come to understand and experience for myself why this particular teaching from Jesus in some bible translations does not call the people who follow them “blessed.”
Instead, it calls them “happy.”