Jesus is a person and, at the same time, a process. Jesus is the Son of God, but at the same time he is “the Way.” Jesus is the goal, but he’s also the means, and the means is always the way of the cross.
The great traditions always call people on a journey of faith to keep changing. There’s no other way this human personality can open up to all that God is asking of us.
Jesus’ new commandment of love meant that neither beliefs nor words, neither taboos, systems, structures nor the labels that enshrined them mattered most. Love decentered everything else; love relativized everything else; love took priority over everything else.
Thus Jesus came and thus he went, giving himself fully into life and death, losing himself, squandering himself, “gambling away every gift God bestows.” It was not love stored up but love utterly poured out that opened the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Conventional Christianity (of many different denominations) prefers to see Jesus as a directive or destination rather than this path; for them “way” is a noun, not a verb. On the mapless journey, however, all is movement. There is no destination, only the enveloping presence of love.
—Diana Butler Bass
Authentic Christianity is not so much a belief system as a life-and-death system that shows us how to give away our life, how to give away our love, and eventually how to give away our death. Basically, how to give away—and in doing so, to connect with the world, with all other creatures, and with God.
A Blessing When Suffering Costs Us
Authors Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie adapted the following blessing for this week’s Daily Meditations theme. They offer compassionate encouragement for the times it costs us to follow God’s way of love:
There is a very American story about bootstrapping and hard work that paints a picture of the possibilities of a world without pain or disappointment. If you just work harder. Pray harder. Try this elixir. Follow this 5-Step Plan. You’ll have the life you always wanted!
But then, there’s the rest of us. Plagued by our humanity, by systems that are too large for us to shoulder alone, by cells that duplicate without our permission. By relationships that don’t work out and church communities that disappoint us and mental health struggles that make getting out of bed just too hard some days.
How do we stay faithful when, no matter how hard we work or how much we pray, we are not exempt from suffering? Might there be room in our actual lives—the one freighted by our neediness for others and raw hopes for tomorrow—for a blessing when everything seems to cost so much?
If you are feeling the cost of all your loves and all your hopes, this is a blessing for you.
For courage when you thought things would be different by now
God, I thought I would feel different by now,
but new pressures just keep mounting.
I have been struggling for too long
to meet each new challenge,
to scrape up resources,
to find small comforts,
to change strategies,
to dig deep into our reserves,
to stay positive,
but I need relief
and fresh hope
and a minute to just say,
I really wish things were easier.
“We do not know what to do,
but our eyes are on you.”
—2 Chronicles 20:12, New International Version
Just when we thought we could almost be done with this,
another shoe drops. There are no finish lines.
We long for the simple joys of times past,
those everyday pleasures we can barely remember, but still hunger for.
A great night’s sleep.
Less financial stress.
The ease of making future plans.
The wish that our faith would give us an exemption
from all that is too painful.
Blessed are we who look to you, God,
in the midst of troubles that are too great for us,
that have gone on far too long.
Who dare to say,
now would be a good time for help to come,
for this to be over, once and for all.
God, send us help.
Bring solutions for the desperate,
protection for the vulnerable,
comfort for the suffering,
strength to the caregivers,
wisdom to those in charge.
Infuse us with the courage to suffer with hope.
That our suffering doesn’t go unnoticed by you.
Sustain us and orient us to the reality in which we now live.
Help us pace ourselves. Keep us awake
to what might be done, right now.
“I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
—Isaiah 41:10, New International Version
Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie, The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days (New York: Convergent Books, 2023), 146–147. Used with permission.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 6. Jenna Keiper, Taos Snow. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 2. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Like ever-changing light in snow, we open to surprises on the way of Jesus.