Tonight, our oldest will accompany me to our Tenebrae service. Seated next to me, I will envelop him with my black-robed arm wrapped around his little body, as he watches the scene that unfolds – haunting melodies, dramatic scripture readings, descending darkness. I wonder how wide his eyes will become when we reach the pinnacle of the service and the Bible is slammed shut, the candle extinguished, and we sing in the dark.
What is this faith that we will pass on to our boys?
What is this servant life to which we are called?
What is this Savior that goes where I cannot?
“Where I am going, you cannot come,” said this one who comes in the name of the Holy One, who embodies Love within mortal flesh, who pours out himself in full devotion to the life of the world. He goes where I cannot – to a painful death that seeks not personal redemption or moral justification, but bears forth full-bodied love-devotion for deserting disciples and a crucifying world.
Even this Lent, as I vowed to follow closely to this Savior, I have struggled to love with my whole heart. I have fumbled my way along these forty days. I have deserted in the shadows. I have balked at the world’s violence and rage. I have noticed my instinctual choice of self-protection over soul-devotion every time.
The closer I am to the Savior, the more that I realize that I am not he.
The closer I get to Jesus, the more that I find myself in need of all that he is.
The closer I get to the cross, the more that I stand in need of the one upon it.
You go where I cannot go, and I am forever confused and forever changed.
You speak a joy that no one can take from us, even as you prepare for this sacrifice.
You are the truth I can fall into all my life long.
The oldest begins his own journey tonight. He will witness the stumbling block that is the cross. He will enter into the sacred mysteries with which knowledge and wisdom can never reckon or resolve. He will begin to consider this foolishness to which we give our life.
With an arm wrapped around him, he and I will become fellow pilgrims on a dangerous road with a Savior who loves us, even, and most profoundly, on our deserting days. I will tell him the great truth – that our desertion can never negate nor diminish Jesus’ devotion.
It is a truth I cannot fathom. But it is one that is saving us, day by day.
We will then go back out in the world where brothers argue and fight, black lives are taken without punishment, power-drunk leaders threaten war without disregard for any sense of the sacred, and teachers are encouraged to carry guns and discouraged from expecting due recompense.
As people being saved by sacrificial love, will we recognize the moment when it is ours to follow? Will we endure with tenderness and grit when hostility confronts but love has been commanded? Will we discover all the fellow pilgrims at our side whose voices must be heard? With a truth like ours, what grand adventure awaits us?