When I met Mary, I was twenty-three, and I was a combustible combination of certainty, ignorance, and passion. She was questioning everything, so we argued a lot, particularly about God, men & women, and anything having to do with the word doubt. I know that miracles happen, because she married me anyway.
But I was also funny and romantic, more so than I am now. During the week leading up to our engagement (which occurred on December 24, 1994), I gave her a different gift every day. I called it “the seven days of Christmas.” Most people do not have a campaign that leads up to their engagement.
I was a mixed bag. I still am.
For my final Lent post, my subject is Palm Sunday, which begins with shouts of praise. The crowd is fired up and the fans are rowdy. A king is crowned. But as the week goes on and darkness falls on Good Friday, those shouts of praise have turned into angry outbursts of violence, calling for death and ending a dream.
They sang a chorus of praise, and they demanded a sentence of death.
We denied and betrayed and forgot and drew the sword and ran away. The cock crowed three times, and when we realized what we did, we cried our eyes out.
The crowd around Jesus was a mixed bag. It still is.
And Jesus knew. He wept about it. But he went to Jerusalem that day anyway. Because love really does win, after all.
I love Anne Lamott. If you want to know how to write honestly, or better yet, how to live honestly, read everything she has ever written. She might be the quintessential mixed bag. In her latest book (Help, Thanks Wow) she drops this canon ball:
“If I were to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”
I am so ruined.
And so loved.
And in charge of so little.
The alternative is to pretend that we’re not so ruined, but then we’ll never know that we are deeply loved exactly as we are, and not as we should be. And so we resort to trying to run the universe because we need to control something, since we cannot control our own lives.
As we enter Holy Week, one of the invitations is to wake up to our own mixed bag, and then not crucify it. Or glorify it. But to just hold it and let it perhaps lead us into a new kind of praying.
So here are some Holy Week prayers, inspired by Anne Lamott:
- Help me to see my own darkness and quit pretending it doesn’t matter.
- Help me to know how very loved I am, despite my own protests to the contrary.
- And help me to understand that running the universe is not my job.
How are you entering into Holy Week?