Joseph Campbell who was best remembered for saying ‘Follow your bliss,’ also mused,
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”
Is he right? Is it true that we find more within ourselves when our life is most challenged? I suspect that it is difficult for us in the moment of our greatest challenge to see Campbell’s wisdom. Yet somehow after we come through those challenges we discover that we have reached a place within ourselves that we had hitherto been unaware of. Think about that for a moment….
When the greatest darkness has surrounded you and you were certain you could never see yourself surviving the circumstances that surrounded you…what brought you through? Who delivered you? I have a thought or two about that.
When we are most challenged, we discover that no matter how out of touch we have been with God, God has not lost touch with us! When we reach into that place where we are often scared to go, there is the One who supports us, guides us, weeps with us, and strengthens us along the way. Sometimes that feeling can be quite intimate, and sometimes so far, far away. But God is there.
Tattoos seem very popular today. Everywhere you look there is amazing body art to be found. I would hasten to add that I have seen some tremendous Christian tattoos. Some people tattoo a faith symbol on themselves to be reminded that God is with them. In fact I had my body marked for the same purpose. It is a cross, although it is not that obvious to most. There is a powerful little sentence in the baptismal liturgy in the Anglican Church. After being baptised with water in the name of the Holy Trinity the priest says to the newly baptised:
“I sign you with the sign of the cross and I mark you as Christ’s own forever.”
These words are accompanied by the act of tracing a cross of the forehead of the newly baptised with ‘oil of chrism.’ On my little forehead, when I was less than a month old, a priest traced a cross and ‘marked me as Christ’s own forever.’ Oddly, no matter how many places I have been I cannot wash that ‘tattoo’ from my forehead. I have tried. I have turned my back on God too often I am ashamed to say. But God never turned God’s back to me. When I have turned back toward Jesus his arms have been open and embracing. That little cross, invisible to most, speaks to something deep within me that I (we) often only am able to access when I face the greatest adversity, but I (we) am (are) called to access every day. When we do find the courage to let that cross be shown to others we have to be prepared that it often comes with a cost. Bearing witness to that cross for Jesus is not always easy as the work of justice, love, and compassion for all is not always welcomed by a world obsessed with consumerism and individuality. But we persevere in speaking the word of love for even those who seem loveless.
How powerful it is to be marked as Christ’s own forever. Are you aware that you are God’s beloved? Do you know that God has stuck with you? How are we to respond that awesome grace, that amazing grace?
I try to remember that I am God’s own as I struggle through my challenges in life. When I am heartbroken or feel alone., or when i have been devastated by loss, I remember that I am God’s own. But it works in day to day life too…As I work to get healthy I lean on God to give me strength. [On that note, some of you have been asking…I am now down 16 lbs, 34 more to go. And my running is getting better each time out…be sure to watch for me on the big race on June 11.] When I am challenged with writing a thesis I lean on God. As I am challenged with being a good priest I lean on God. As I struggle with being a good husband, friend, son, mentor etc …I lean on God and remind myself that I am one of God’s own….forever…and when I forget that I simply look in the mirror to see the ‘tattoo’ of the cross on my forehead.