“Who can stay awake in this night of God?” —Moltmann

By Janet Davis
2015 Lenten Meditation, Week 5

Perhaps this devotional just needed to be written at night. I am sitting up in my bed at 5 am. Awakened at 4, I could not go back to sleep. The task of writing this devotional would not leave me. My generous husband doesn’t fuss or question me. He simply hands me his computer with its backlit keyboard.

I’ve been pondering Christ’s Passion for weeks and, like a snowball that gathers mass as it moves downhill, I have been collecting thoughts, quotes, and experiences. Though a part of me wishes I could write this in a way that does not expose my own pain, that option has evaporated.

Start close in
Don’t take the second step
Or the third
Start with the first
Close in,
The step
You don’t want to take.
– David Whyte

I have been suffering with chronic pain for more than 5 years. Though my pain is not constant, it is daily and it is severe. I will spare you the details because, in this moment, they are unimportant. Pain is pain is pain is pain. As Robin Roberts of Good Morning America has written, “Everybody’s got something.”  The important piece is not the nature of my pain, but how I own it.

Parker Palmer recently quoted Florida Scott-Maxwell, 85, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done… you are fierce with reality.” In the same blog, Palmer writes, “Wholeness does not mean perfection; it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”

As I continued reading, I thought of Jesus in the garden, the place where his Passion was born, owned, received, even embraced. “He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “’My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’”  (Matthew 26:38) Jesus was fierce with reality, a painful and frightening reality; he was whole in his brokenness.

Lord, have mercy. Will I let my pain into my life or will I continue to pretend?
Christ, have mercy. Will I own my pain or will I fracture myself as I attempt to deny it?
Lord, have mercy. Will I embrace this night of God or will I sleep?

It is difficult for me to let others know of my suffering. Really hard.  More often than not, I hide behind “looking good.”  This week, when my pain was worse than I can recall its ever being, God’s Spirit “out-ed” me to three friends, people who listen closely when God whispers.

A text from a friend in town: “Hi, been thinking of you a whole lot. Are you okay? Please, send a quick text so I don’t worry…”
A call from an elderly cousin: “I’ve been worried about you and thought I would give you a call”…and that in the midst of his own suffering and surgery!
A card from yoga-loving directee: “…then we stood in mountain pose with prayer hands and eyes closed… I envisioned you and dedicated my practice to you.”

I think Jesus sent me the companion compassion that He missed. The tender love of my friends reflected my suffering back to me, bringing me to tears for my own pain. I am taking the first step, the one I don’t want to take, toward receiving my pain. I am trying to stay awake in this night. Perhaps I, too, will become fierce with reality. Perhaps I, too, will find wholeness.  Perhaps you can, too.


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