I had every intention of attending the Triduum during Holy Week this year. At the beginning of the week I received a call from a single mother who happens to be my daughter. She needed child-care on the same evening as Holy Thursday, which meant I would need to take my grandson with me to a very long Mass. I decided to help her while keeping my reluctance to myself. Thursday afternoon came and after having experienced the precarious mood of a crabby two-year old, I discouragingly gave up the idea of going to Mass. My lament started giving birth to mounting negative thoughts. I know well that when I give my own pity parties a welcome mat, it almost always turns into a mudroom of resentment. So with everything I could muster, I tried to let go of the fact that I felt gypped out of a holy practice in which I longed to engage. Though the thought of it “felt unholy”, I decided to take my grandson to the Children’s Museum.
We drove over, walked in and paid our entrance fee. My grandson watched intently as the curator stamped both our hands with green turtles. I rolled the stroller into the exhibit area where my grandson made a sweeping gaze across the giant hall of wonder. His curly lashes blinked slowly over his brown eyes, now as big as saucers.
That is when I was invited into a sacred space.
The dance in his eyes made a great leap into my heart with a very clear invitation, “Grandma, let’s play right here, right now!” He grabbed my hand and in the wake of his screaming delight, we were flying to the first station.
After a lot of hard and fun play, we bid our farewell until next time and started walking toward the car. On the way over we saw a man whose disheveled head was lying on the cold ground with his coat covering only half his body. There was some leftover food next to him all bound up in a wad of used tin foil.
The resentful heart I had donned earlier that day was no less hardened than the ground on which was laid this precious man’s head. I sat next to him while my grandson watched silently. The sleeping man was completely stripped down to the very depth of his nakedness. It really moved me.
Softened through the sacred act of play, my heart broke open like an alabaster jar.
That is when I entered into a sacred space.
In grief, I felt so deeply connected to him. Whatever he lost had now exposed a shame that was obvious to the whole city. This was no different than the way I feel when my morals and my efforts to be “holy” are not covering me – like missing Mass on Holy Thursday.
That was the holy moment I had longed for earlier. I thought I would find it at Mass, but God led me instead to a child, and through a shared brokenness with a homeless man. In that broken place, both of us had missed the very message that Jesus died to give us.
we are shining like the sun even when we don’t know it.
we live in shame though God sees us whole.
our true selves lie beneath our shame.
we need to die to that shame so we can be resurrected.
I strolled my grandson to my car and fetched a blanket out of my trunk. With blanket in hand we walked back to the homeless man and we covered his dignity.
It felt as if the three of us had just shared the Eucharistic feast together, on Holy Thursday, at the park, in ordinary life. God had awakened me to something so good, so true and so beautiful. In a strange way, this moment felt even more holy than going to Mass.
There is no doubt that the traditional Christian story of the Lenten journey always lands on resurrection. Yet, without a personal experience of true resurrection, these Easter stories, heard over and over, eventually become like pennies wasted in our wishing wells. Not every Easter resurrects.
Maybe one of the best places to find resurrection is in the margins of life. This seems to be a way that God brings us into union with Godself and others. This is where all lines are erased. This is where we can see the unseen. This is where we find our brokenness and our connectedness. I believe it is also where Jesus secretly sets his table and calls us all to dine together.
I believe that Easter is less about our sins and the coming day of our salvation than it is about waking up right here and right now. I believe Easter is about resurrecting our deepest intuition. That life with God is as good as we hope it to be (those things we are too afraid to name). Jesus’ death and resurrection became the inaugural Lenten journey and Easter of many more to come.
I believe that God the Father, almighty maker of heaven and earth, will keep them coming…
until we all wake up.
So be it!
Image of homeless man found here
Val Dodge Head, M.A., lives in Grand Rapids, MI, and serves on the CenterQuest staff and board. A trained spiritual director, she will be entering into a year long residency program to become a chaplain in the Fall of 2014. Val’s favorite roles in life are that of mother, mother-in-law and especially being a grandmother to a two-year old boy and a 2 month old girl. She loves to build bridges between the good and bad and to envelop herself in various forms of contemplation, all of which have helped her see God in all things good, true and beautiful, wherever and in whomever it leads. You can find her on the CenterQuest blog, Instagram and Pinterest.
11 thoughts on “Eyes in the Alley – When Easter Meets Us in the Margins”
Thank you for this beautiful story Val. Sounds like you went to Emmaus.
Thanks Bob. It felt like Emmaus came to me! Funny that when we ask God for things like “help me know how to help the poor”…we are looking for thunder claps of revelation when only God just meant for us to open our eyes and see right in front of us….the opportunities that abound.
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Well Val, you rocked my thoughts again. Thank you for your openness about who we people are. Jesus is alive!! Hallelujah!
Thank you Carol. Yes, Jesus is alive and how beautiful the reality when it comes close to home. I am glad you are on the Innerwoven blog…. so many good things transpire here.
So Val, as your friend, what kind of handle exactly is “valfranmoclare?” That takes the mystical to a whole other level!
Rob, it is my own code for asking the communion of saints to pray for me, combined with something that will pass as a solid password.
It can be God’s nickname for you!
Ha, not so much. Its more like a prayer. Val wants mo’ (more) of Francis and Clare in her spirit. So be it! Your too funny Rob. Ok now get busy on your wrap-up post for this series!
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Fair enough. I like that a lot. I should do similarly. A wrap up post is coming next week after I return from the Oregon Coast (yeah, well, someone had to do it).
I wonder how many of us have this same prayer in our hearts, Val! Francis has been my patron saint right from the time I first came to know about him. His pure and chaste love for Clare and for all living creatures, lives in my heart of hearts — as love for God’s “little Anawim”. May the Lord honour your prayer, precious Val — and for all of us. For it is He, who affords us the love & grace to truly meet those on the margins. It is He, who receives the glory for these humble, yet sacred acts.
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