Monday, March 16, 2015

Amy Downing

Jeremiah 16:10-21
John 6:1-15

The texts that I was asked to blog about were very challenging but then I had to honestly ask myself, Is there any biblical text I don't find challenging? 

The answer is of course, no.

Yet, I indefinitely have an affinity towards the challenging stories of Jesus and a knee jerk reaction to Jeremiah's God of the old testament.  A God who is so unforgiving and would scatter his people and punish them so greatly.  Yet in order to know Jesus more, the miracle worker who feeds 5000 people and humbly slips away into the wilderness, I know I must challenge myself to find the merciful, loving God that Jesus found in the torah.  Although Jesus' revolutionary interpretation of the law changes people's interpretation of the old testament, this is still the foundation of his faith.  Which is what I believe he is speaking to in the reading from John.

So the resonating themes in these passages are a broken people.  People scattered and scared, hungry and lonely,  grateful for mercy while grappling with what it means to follow God's law when suffering, discontentment, and oppression have lead them to sin. 

The themes obviously are timeless.

One of my favorite writers, Pema Chandron speaks about how our fear of suffering and sadness often leads us to our ultimate unhappiness.  We live in a society that tells us we should be satisfied at every moment and if we have even a moment of discomfort we can surely numb it with any form of entertainment.  And that entrainment can come in many forms- television, drugs, sex, gossiping.

Though society has gotten more creative with our numbing tools, I do believe that those same feelings of loneliness, sadness, and not feeling like we are enough led to theirs insomuch in the same way that they lead to ours.

Pema Chandron encourages us with our sadness, loneliness, and emptiness through mediation.  Instead of turning away from our sadness she encourages us to be with it and see it through. Ultimately to see that it will pass. Just as joy cannot be forever, neither can pain. 

This idea was very hard for me when I begin my meditation practice.  As an actor and an extrovert my tendency in times of sadness is to call a friend and bitch, or to pour myself a glass of wine.

I was terrified of being alone with my pain and sadness. 

I was afraid it would take me over.  I feared it so much that like the people Jeremiah speaks of, I turned to my non-gods to fix it for me.  Numb me.  If I had been at the meal of loaves and fishes I might of turned away, saying this is impossible I better go find some work or I'll be starving later.  I'll see Jesus speak another time. I would have missed the miracle of being with what is, and discovering I actually had more than enough all along. 

So now when I'm sad I have a practice to sit with it, to not judge it. To let it live.  The more I let it be and dont try to numb it or escape it, the more I let it be in my heart and experience the full capacity of my fear, the smaller it gets. 

And I think I understand Jeremiah's story.  I think I can begin to understand God's frustration with a people who want to run away from any pain.  Yet, I need to hear Jesus' voice saying, I won't abandon you again.  You are enough as you are, but please try.


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