The story of Jesus’ walk on earth can be found in Scripture—the story of love, the story of pain, sorrow, grace, and joy. Jesus walked the earth and allowed interruption after interruption; no doubt feeling alone, though He was often in a crowd. He did not allow sadness to enter the encounters with others, though He knew the nature of His death and burial. He also knew that without the pain of dying, there could be no resurrection.
As He knew His journey, so He knows ours.
The story of the woman with the hunchback, kyphsosis to those in the medical profession, as told by Luke in chapter 13, is a reminder that Jesus surely knows each of our journeys. The woman came to hear Jesus, not to lament that 18 years was too long for her to have been bent over. She just wanted to be near the Messiah. Jesus sensed her presence and declared her “free” and, as she stood straight and beautiful, the “push back” from the watchers was silenced when Jesus exclaimed, “She is a daughter of Abraham!”
You and I are the sons and daughters of Abraham. Jesus’ death and resurrection set us free—free from the guilt and consequences of sin.
Like the woman with the hunchback, like many of you, I come to the gathering of God’s people to hear His message. We believe Jesus died and was resurrected and will return to join us as we enter into eternal life, yet we are tempted to concentrate on the negatives, the burdens that weigh us down. For example: Sunday, April 7, driving on the Clara Barton Parkway to Takoma Park from Georgetown University Hospital, after a night of serving as the chaplain on call, in spite of the beautiful cherry blossoms and signs of spring, my mind wandered to the many learning experiences (mistakes) on the journey of my first chaplaincy Unit; for example, leaving the pager in the office one evening, shredding current documents, to visiting the wrong patient. Then, my thoughts turned to preparing for my impending departure from Washington Adventist University. Suddenly, brought back to driving among the shadowy trees, a mother deer and two fawn appeared and crossed the road in front of me.
God has often reminded me of His presence by sending a deer across my path. My thoughts then turned to the many wonderful encounters at the hospital, visiting with patients and the thrill of bringing calm out of chaos for the patient, the patient’s friends and family members, either visiting or grieving, as well as meeting kind and caring members of the teams serving throughout the hospital. I thought of the years serving as a teacher and “being there” for students. I remembered the more than 50 years of serving as an employee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church with its many friendships and blessings.
The choice to remember the “cherry blossom” experiences and leave the shadows with God is up to me. Today, I drove among those formerly “shadow trees” and discovered that they are now in green. The neighborhood yards are crowded with tulips, crocus, wisteria, and even a dogwood tree or two.
The story of my journey is no more or less unique than that of each of my colleagues in the various institutions where I have served – Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Canada and the United States--amazing teams of dedicated spiritual leaders. I can choose how I see those years—dark and filled with shadows or brilliant, full, and rich with color.
Parker J. Palmer, in the book Let Your Life speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, writes about a Quaker woman who advised him that God sometimes leads by the “way” closed behind us rather than the way that opens. I am still trying to accept that the lessons learned from the “way closing” behind me prepare me for the way forward. Jesus suffered and died before he was resurrected to set us free to see a bright future.
The story of the woman with the hunchback reminds us that we need to come to Jesus and, trusting the future, to want to want God to write the rest of our story.
Action Step: To experience faith, stand tall if you are able and physically bend over little-by-little as you think of your current burdens—family, health, finances, loss, uncertainty, fear, and oppression in our world. As you begin to feel the stretch of rounding your back, tell yourself, I am a child of Abraham! Jesus died for our burdens and was resurrected to set us free. Stand straight and tall as you shout: I AM Free!
Hint: Leave the burdens there; don’t take them away with you.