A scripture has come to me twice recently. Once in conversation and once in a devotion. Some thoughts have come to mind.
“About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. And there was a voice from heaven;”You are my son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness. At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.”
That is Mark 1:9-13
The first recent encounter with this was through a friend who is a new disciple of Christ. (On Saturday she celebrated the anniversary of accepting Christ) In conversation with another fellow disciple, this person asked or commented something along the lines that it was the Holy Spirit that tempted Jesus. I found this to be an interesting interpretation and just pointed her back to the scripture and explained what I thought it meant but it was a brief dialogue. I almost dismissed it… I have been busy. God brought me back around.
The second time, was in my devotion on Monday. It got me thinking about the big picture presented here. Jesus was just baptized. He was beginning His Ministry. He was fully God and fully human. Perhaps the reason the Spirit forced him out into the wilderness was to prepare him. To help the “Fully human” side of him recognize the “Fully God” side. As humans, we can doubt in our own power and abilities and strength. On top of that, the scripture specifically mentions that he was among wild animals and that angels took care of him. Often the focus of this scripture is on the temptations of Satan, and I wonder if maybe we should consider the wild animals and the angels. Jesus had a battle for things not necessarily physical in his temptation by Satan, but he also had these physical threats present. I think it builds a bigger story and a more relatable story. If Jesus was only faced with the temptations and not thisphysical need, would we be able to relate to him? Think about it, we are all tempted all the time. That is, after all, the primary job of the forces of darkness. If we think about it as “imagery” we are all in a wilderness at one time or another, some of us daily, and we encounter “wild animals” – I know, they aren’t lions and tigers and bears (Oh My!) unless you live in specific parts of the world but there are day to day representations of wild animals… I bet you just thought of at least one. So while Jesus is focusing all of his attention on these temptations, he has to believe that these physical threats are being addressed. He has to rely on the angels – the provision given to him by God… I pity the animal that tangles with an angel! (insert Mr. T’s voice in that last statement)
My point is…well actually, my question is: Did the Spirit force him into the wilderness to help Jesus learn that in the face of his own human-ness he had the ability to rely on His power; to show the human Jesus that “You can do it!” and give the human Jesus the fortitude and confidence and ability to empathize and all the stuff that he would need in order to properly minister to all of us humans who are not also “Fully God?”
My friend who is a new disciple, she has said a few times during her journey this past year that she thought she’d spent her time in the wilderness prior to accepting Christ, but things got even harder at times afterward. The difference being… She accepted Christ and well, she has had more positive than good even in the midst of trials because of her Faith. I think her wilderness experience is her boot camp. I think that once she gets through it…she will be a force for God to be reckoned with.
So, I have noticed some changes in myself as of late, of which I am not proud. I have dropped a couple balls for which I can’t apologize enough. Brain fog. Sarcasm (my old friend/nemesis/crutch) has re-entered my thought pattern, my texting, my language. Anger lingers. An underlying sense of “rawness.” A lack of empathy for perceived “weakness” – but only in certain people…that I won’t get into here, but I fully understand it and have quickly processed.
There may not seem like there is a connection here, but bare with me. Today I found myself watching a press conference a few moments ago that started a flood of tears. The Metro Homicide Unit had an update on the murder of a two year old that was killed in our community last week. If you are interested you can watch it here: MHU Press Conference
WHY has this triggered all of this? I can probably give you all KINDS of information about the psychology and emotion behind what I am experiencing. Things that I have LEARNED.
But…I need a minute,
AND I don’t want to take one, not even that ONE MINUTE.
Because I am just too busy to process something that is just for ME. Yes, this post actually is about me.
Lets start with a bit of background for those of you who don’t know me. I am blessed with two wonderful vocations. Working at both a church and a funeral home providing care for other people is perfect for me…except that, it means that I “know” too much. I know how to help other people process through relational issues, pain, grief… and in that knowing, I am realizing (well I began to ignore realize it some time ago I think, but now I am publicly acknowledging) that it is stunting or hindering my own process and causing me to rely on less than helpful coping skills exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors.
Having my work and my personal life collide too often is probably not really helpful for me when you consider what those vocations are.
In the past year and four months I have been surrounded with a great deal of loss, or trauma/crisis…not always my own but no more than one degree away from it. I am an empathetic person and sometimes, empathy hurts.
So, let me paint a picture for you. Aside from the people that I am honored to assist in my roles at the church and funeral home each day, here is the portrait of pain around me: (Most of it loss of life, but not all of it.)
Let us journey back to January of 2013:
January 2013, I learn that my cousin’s six month old daughter has passed away unexpectedly. The funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.
January 2013 – that baby’s grandmother (my father’s sister, my aunt) passes away after a long illness. The funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.
March 2013 I don’t know how to say this without sounding like I am complaining but Sept – Nov 2012 and then March – June of 2013 I was exhausted from concern…visiting my father, roughly, every other day in a facility or hospital was my 3rd job…but March was the beginning of the end. After years, nay… decades of illness, this marked the final hospitalization of my father who after long treatment and surgery…
June 2013, my father died. My church and the funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.
Then there appears to have been a lull…but I don’t remember it.
December 2013 Our lead pastor shares the pain he is feeling, with our staff, over the loss of his nephew who completed suicide. It is always difficult to watch our pastor during moments like this, but I think this meeting may have been the first time I FELT something after my father died. I remember my heart hurting for our lead pastor and letting many tears flow…but it wasn’t MY loss.
December 2013, I receive a call from my grieving mother to tell me that HER mother had died. This is still being processed by my mother on top of my father’s loss and there has been no funeral or memorial service.
December 2013, days before Christmas, I receive an early morning call from a dear friend who had been caring for her terminally ill mother. She shared that her mother had just died. I was honored to spend that day with and walk with the family through the funeral process. She was born on the summer solstice and died on the winter solstice. For some reason that sticks in my brain. The funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.
That was my first day of vacation at the time and then I attended the funeral later that week feeling unwell, which turned into pneumonia and
December 31/Jan 1 At 10:30 pm I receive a disturbing text message from the husband of a dear friend followed (finally) two hours later by a phone call from that dear friend who just experienced a horrible revelation from said husband and I am still walking beside her through this.
Did I mention I had pneumonia during this?
Not to mention, the winter of 2013/2014 that seemed to never end, the winter where I learned the term “Polar Vortex” and our great city “shuts down” at least twice.
February 2014 turned out to be an EXCEPTIONALLY busy time at the church…at least for me. (I know that this is not a relational issue/crisis/loss but I am painting a picture here and consider this just a small element in the background of a larger landscape)
March 2014 I was honored to walk alongside a family in our church as they laid to rest their 10 month old daughter who died unexpectedly. Our church and the funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service. This service was especially hard for me, and others on our church and funeral home staffs…but again, it was not MY loss.
March 2014 Our church staff lost a great friend whose wife is a also a great friend and fellow staff member, way too soon… He was vibrant and healthy and wonderful and then…he was gone.
April 2014 I learn of a shooting of a two year old (see above press conference) and quickly realize that it is my cousin’s grandson.
April 2014 I learn of a another shooting and soon learn that the young man, 18 years old, riding his bike home from work, was a classmate of my daughter, they were acquainted I guess, not close at all, but she has been talking about it and it has affected her entire school. The funeral home I am affiliated with is coordinating the service, and I am aware of his presence there and having a child that same age, at the same school…my heart hurts. In a perfect world, I can actually see this in my mind, in two months, he should be walking across the stage of their school receiving his diploma – alphabetically a little before my daughter…my heart hurts and it is again…not MY loss
I am pretty certain that there are many other things that should be included in this list, honestly I find that lull up there between June to December hard to believe but I don’t want to go back through my calendar seeking out pain.
So, I share all of that because I just need to. Sometimes, proximity to pain CAN affect us. I need to admit that. I need to practice what I preach, so to speak. I am acknowledging that I have reached capacity and I need to, as my good friend Laura just sang to me, “Let it Go!”
I am still going to continue to walk alongside of others in their pain and in their grief but I need to make space inside of myself before I can help others carry their burden. Now…I am making a phone call because I need someone who doesn’t know me, to help me process my own…stuff.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone,without comparing themselves to someone else,for each one should carry their own load.Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.