9My passion is to be consumed with him
10And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully
and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me.
I will be one with him in his sufferings
and I will be one with him in his death.
11Only then will I be able to experience complete oneness
with him in his resurrection from the realm of death.
Philippians 3: 9-11 (TPT)
A few years ago Jesus invited me to join Him on a journey to places I'd never gone. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius were the vehicle He used to invite me deeper into His life. A spiritual director well-versed in the Exercises has been my companion and guide on my journey.
I began the Exercises by establishing the depth of God's love for me experientially. The first section took me on a journey of understanding my sin and Jesus grace. The second section invited me to join Jesus in the spiritual battle and walk alongside Him as He ministers to the world. The third section, where I am currently, is the journey to the Cross while the final section focuses on the Resurrection.
The Exercises have helped me get in touch with myself and God at a deeper level.
They've exposed my faulty theology, taught me how to enter into the scriptures as a participant, and challenged me to the core. At the same time, they've brought about greater personal transformation than I ever expected.
Nevertheless, I cannot tell you how many times I've wanted to quit this journey. I've often felt like an athlete training for a marathon who is being pushed to excellence by her coach. At times I am exhausted and want to skip practice because my legs are weak, Im out of breath, and I just can't run anymore. More often than not, I've dreaded the weekly sessions with my director and, at times, have wanted to tell him to back off because were going into unknown territory I'm not sure I want to enter, or whether I even can.
Entering into suffering...willingly
After sixteen months, Im finally entering into the third section of the Exercises, walking alongside Jesus through His final hours on earth, heading to the cross. The purpose of this section has been to enter into His sorrow, suffering, and agony each step of the way. It has tested my fortitude, my desire, and my courage. I've struggled with my own resistance to be with Him in His suffering. I've questioned whether or not it's really worth it. Jesus also recently revealed to me hidden areas of my own pain that I've kept locked up for many years.
I have spent weeks in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. At first I watched Him from afar, then fell asleep with Peter, James and John, and finally sat with Him as He agonized over the plan that would take Him to the cross. I've knelt with Him, my hand on His back as He weeps. This week I finally embraced Him, just as I embraced my sister-in-law last week when her husband died of pancreatic cancer with a long, heartfelt hug that expressed the love and compassion I was unable to speak. I felt His tears drenching my shirt, as He sobbed on my shoulder. Despite these inroads, I still haven't fully experienced His suffering.
Suffering is patient
This is not a process I can rush. Believe me, I've tried. I've plotted out the days and estimated when I should be done. I've tried to force revelations that only He can bring. But Jesus is not impatient with my process or progress. He beckons me to continue, yet graciously waits as I wander from the path or have to stop and rest. He sits with me in love as I wrestle with my self preservation. Transformation does not happen overnight.
Being a member of a church expression for the past twenty years that focuses on the beauty, victory and triumph of the resurrection, Im relatively unfamiliar with Jesus suffering. I don't often want to think about what it took to get there. I don't want to look suffering and death directly in the eye because its too uncomfortable.
I can't fully live the resurrection if I don't experience Jesus suffering and death
Likewise, the experience will be incomplete if I get stuck in the suffering. Death and resurrection go together. In order to be one with Jesus, I must be willing to be one with Him in His suffering and one with Him in His death. Only then can I fully experience the resurrected life.
Image byOrazio Borgianni - Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons