HUMANE PURSUITS MARKS HOLY WEEK WITH FIVE WEEKDAY POSTS ON THE PRAY CHANNEL.
Here I am, Jesus. At this Good Friday service. I’ve just shown up. Again. You know the pain and the confusion. I’m not going to be able to push them aside. You’ll have to. I’m thirtyish, I’m single. Another relationship dissolved as if in acid, a few artifacts poking out of the sludge to prove its existence.
Focus on this special day. I’m singing the words on the screen in the dark auditorium. The light is reflecting on the silver-haired man in the theatre seat before me. Images are flashing, representations of you with a thorn-scraped brow. Some drummer banging out the staccato of your beatings. I’m raising my hands, and yet still this inner voice…
We’re sitting down for announcements. The cute youth leader is bobbing her head and body as she speaks. I bet she’s married or dating. Is that a ring? Maybe if I was short and could wear overalls, seriously, overalls, like that–stop it, self, stop it. Back to Jesus. Anne Lamott’s mantra: Help me, help me, help me.
Are you interested in transforming this desperate part of me? As a twenty-year-old I promised I’d stay single and childless for your glory. I felt a jerk in my belly as I prayed and assumed maybe no babies.
But I had a mentor, who said, Why don’t you live in reality? She told me, You’re pushing down desire, and it pops up with a burst, and then you get all embarrassed. Why don’t you trust God to live in desire? No more avoiding men, instead chatting them up, making friends, being half-assed pursued. There was one guy who was a sweetheart and strew his pick-up with lilacs, but we had so little to talk about.
Help me desire you. Isn’t that the point of all this—I’m never satisfied and then I’m led back to you. Craving you. Right? Then why does life seem to suck?
The pastor’s coming up. I like him. He’s got a boyish grin. He’s the whole package, isn’t he? Smart, articulate, funny, devout. Bet he never spatters emotions as I do. So tempting to think that what you really want is a man, a right-thinking, hard-working, calm-as-a-cool-day man. Ugh. Here we go—opened father wound–press it together. Back to Jesus.
Jesus, Jesus, Son of God, help me in my unbelief. I know I’m expected to desire you, but do you desire me? I’m so frickin’ tired. Twenty more papers to grade tomorrow, butt pasted to a wood chair in a coffee shop, articles to read for grad school, research the day after, and then back to my classroom on Monday.
Hard to identify with you. When was this heart shit important to you? Did you long to get married, to throw your arm over a mass of comforter and know someone was on the other side, to hear that person’s breathing at night? You’re kind of cold in scripture. Do you know that? The apostles’ style of writing lacks warmth. They wrote accounts. That’s why I like the happy Jesus in the Visual Bible movies from the 90s. Always smiling. I’m sure you smiled at kids when they approached you. But adults?
Boyish-grin pastor is reading. John 19 is scrolling down the screen. Here it comes: the stuff that rips at me if my soul can take it tonight.
You were flogged.
Somebody raked sensitive skin with a spiked crown.
People screamed, “Crucify him!”
You drug your own cross on your already shredded wounds.
Guards stripped you.
They pounded humongous nails into your flesh.
They sat under your heaving body and drew lots for your clothing.
Blinded by blood and sweat, suspended by iron and tendon and bone, you see your mother below you, losing her son, losing the only family member who believes as she does, and you look at your closest friend, the man after your own heart, the one who gets you and always had your back, and you say, “Woman, here is your son,” and to your best pal, “Here is your mother.”
I sit down. A friend pats my shoulder.
I am seeping tears like when I watch the happy Jesus movies. Really, sweet Jesus, really? From the cross, you cared about your mother’s relational need? You didn’t want her to be alone. You didn’t want her to buck up. You “made a home for the lonely” (Psalm 66:5). You liked, no, loved her feminine, desiring heart, even as you were about to gasp your last breath.
Along with being a mother to two young and remarkably different daughters, Heather Walker Peterson is a member of Redbud Writers Guild and Chair of the Department of English and Literature at University of Northwestern-Saint Paul.