showing up, again & again

I’m swimming in Holy Week preparations, and thinking about how lonely that time must have been for Jesus. I expect his whole life held an edge of human loneliness, given that he was both fully human and fully divine, always both fully invested in the moment AND aware of its implications.

But that last week, when he pours himself out: explaining, again and again, what is about to happen only to have his disciples refuse and resist; caring for crowds of demanding people who all want something from him when he knows that his death will crush them; kneeling down to wash the feet of friends who will leave the room and sell him out; eating a holy meal with his beloveds who will, in the next 48 hours, deny that they ever knew him.

Jesus gets whitewashed (literally and figuratively) in our telling of it: “oh, he was so close to God – he WAS God – that none of that mattered. he had set his face and knew what was coming and only anticipated reunion with his Father. he was DIVINE, and DIVINITY doesn’t feel pain.”

Except none of that is in the scriptural record that has passed along this story. Jesus wept with grief for his dead friend Lazarus. He said his soul was troubled even as he tried to explain what was about to happen to his friends. On the cross, he cried out an ancient psalm, feeling forsaken.

Jesus wasn’t a superhero, and he wasn’t a cyborg without feeling. Jesus was a PERSON, a human, a beloved being who felt all the things that humans feel.

And this week, I’m thinking about how much of those feelings must have been adjacent to loneliness. I’m thinking about how it was the women who stayed at the foot of the cross – most of the men high-tailed it out of there, but Jesus’ mom, his aunt, and Mary Magdalene stayed until the bitter end, bearing witness and refusing to leave him alone.

The women are the ones who care for the body, and the ones who discover the empty tomb. The women stay. They refuse to look away. They will not abandon their beloved son, friend, lord and teacher. They show up, again and again.

I’m thinking, this week, about how lonely the end of Jesus’ life must have been. And I am also thinking, this week, about how many opportunities we have to show up, to stay, to refuse to look away from the pain of our own friends and neighbors. I’m wondering about the times I have abandoned others to their loneliness, and the times that I have mustered enough courage to stick around and bear witness to it. I think sometimes courage is simply choosing to show up, again and again.

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