Part of my seminary training was to spend a summer as a chaplain at a hospital. It was an intense time of visiting the hospitalized and small group work with the other chaplains on how it was working to put our theology to work, if you will.
I was young—in my mid-twenties, and one moment of that summer really stands out in my mind. I was with a young wife and mother who had just found out her husband had died. We were in a room and there were opaque blinds on the windows, and outside you could hear the cars zooming by. I remember looking at that devastated woman and hearing the cars go by and thinking, how can the world keep going on when her life has been utterly destroyed? No one out there has any idea what has just happened in here. It made me mad. I wanted the world to stop and show her some respect.
As we processed this in our small group, another chaplain, a student at Harvard Divinity School whose Lutheran theology was second to none, reminded me that the world had stopped for Jesus. That he was there, crying with her and giving her his strong shoulders to hold her burdens. We call this the theology of the cross. You don’t look up to see Jesus in all the good of life, because Jesus is most clearly revealed in pain, struggle and death. That is where God’s power is fully revealed–on the cross.
He made up a word—as so often theologians do—and that was “isness.” How Jesus is seen in what IS in life. Not what we hope for in the future, or long for from the past [though of course Jesus is the God of the past and the God of the future], but if you want to really know Jesus’ presence, look at what IS–because he is right there–crying in a room in a hospital with a woman who is feeling utterly alone.
It is the New Year, and once again I forgot to make any resolutions. Well, I did vow to eat more healthily, but that is nothing new. But as I was pondering my lack of resolve, I had a bit of an epiphany. Maybe I can use this lack of resolve for the future, to be more attentive to what IS in my life.
Today is the day of Epiphany, the day we celebrate the kings coming from afar to worship Jesus. And it starts a season in the church where we celebrate that those very kings foreshadowed how Jesus came for all nations to know him. And I want to add that we are to know him in the isness of our lives. Because wherever we find ourselves, that is where Jesus is.
Sometimes I know I think that if I do devotions more or am better about taking quiet time I will somehow experience Jesus more. But what that does way too often is it makes me experiencing Jesus depend on my actions, rather than as the gift that it is. I have read about monks who find the most spiritual times to be when they are sweeping the floor or doing any number of ordinary tasks, rather than in times of worship or prayer. I take that to be about the isness. Or the gift of that moment when you know that no matter what you are doing, Jesus is with you.
For some reason, today, that is an epiphany. It is an invitation to let go of my resolve to keep getting better and instead recognize that I am already God’s child. Forgiven and loved and freed to enter fully into what IS in my life, rather than continuing to wait for something else to happen or from dwelling on what I didn’t do in the past.
Maybe that can be an epiphany for you, too. Stop. Look at what IS. Jesus is there, so embrace the isness of your life.