Some years ago, just before Christmas, I was sitting and enjoying conversation with a staff member one minute, then lying on the ground the next, completely unaware that my body was in the midst of a full-blown seizure. Several tests later, we found out that the seizure was an anomaly and I could be virtually sure it wouldn’t happen again.
That was wonderful news—news we rejoiced in, certainly—but it didn’t take away the challenging spiritual journey I experienced in the months that followed.
For most of my life I’ve been deeply blessed to know—through family, friends, teachers and church—I am “saved by grace through faith” as a sort of religious fact. Faith has been a living stream, precious water in my life. When I have sung, “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever, and love me I pray …,” I’ve known and felt Jesus in my heart, making my life right before God. Moreover I’ve known and felt Christ to be a constant source of love, grace, mercy and peace.
All of that went away after the seizure. Maybe because it was my first taste of mortality, or maybe because other painful issues were going on around me at the time—I don’t know.
I do know that I felt like I was in some kind of spiritual time warp. I didn’t sense God’s presence—just a bleak absence. I couldn’t pray through Epiphany, other than those public prayers I made as a pastor. I couldn’t stomach texts that proclaimed hope. Preaching was an ordeal. Pastoral care was difficult at best.
Then Lent arrived. The lectionary was the texts that are before us this year. Words of God so loving the world, of a woman at the well, of a man healed from blindness experienced since birth. Gradually through those 40 days, through the turning toward Easter, I heard again the good word. God is for us—not against. God wills life—not death. God draws near us in Christ—to the point of death, death on a cross. God is salvation, water, light—hope.
These aren’t just words. These are what John’s Gospel promises they are—the way. The way through. The way in. The way toward. The way to all God wants us to see, all God wants us to taste of the incredible mercy that is at the center of God’s heart.