We often speak approvingly in the Church of those individuals who are “unwavering,” “steadfast,” and “unflagging”…holding up these people who don’t appear to show weariness of doing good, who don’t shrink, and don’t seem to ever fall. These are the people we often speak of wanting to be like!
And no wonder – wouldn’t it be great to be so steady, so constant – and trustworthy? That’s certainly a yearning of my own heart.
But what about times when we’re not this way? What can be said of those unfortunate moments (all over the place) where there is wavering, stumbling and falling?
The Best News. My own experience is that those are the very moments where the ‘good news’ really comes on line as something that matters.
As Paul wrote, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us….Just at the right time, when we were yet without strength (utterly helpless, powerless, weak), Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:8/ 5:6)
Yet again, when we Mormons talk about the gospel and its “good news,” we sometimes tend to weave together long answers that reference pre-mortality, receiving bodies, falling, atonement, resurrection, eternal families, celestial glory, etc.
In receipt of the overflowing cornucopia of gospel truth, can you blame us for sometimes getting lost in the weeds?
I suppose it doesn’t matter much if we get a little lost in the weeds on a pleasure hike. But for someone truly lost to their core, hurting and desperate – a little weed wandering might just be a lethal moment…
In my own periods of profound lost-ness, where I felt most vulnerable, this was precisely the moment when His reach felt most tangible.
Especially when I cried out, “This is not who I am…this is not who I want to be…I want to be yours!”
In those moments, as I reached for Him, I always felt His reach back at me. In that at-onement or “embrace,” arises a newness and freshness unlike any other – and beyond any joy of my life.
No therapy, no drug, no relationship, no movie, no accomplishment could bring the same relief, deliverance, remission:
New, fresh. In this moment.
Isn’t that the truly good news? That tomorrow doesn’t have to be like today – that this moment doesn’t have to be like the last one?
That has now become my favorite way to describe THE good news: Simply put, this can be a new moment.
As we say in the mindfulness of breathing practice in our Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes, “each in-breath, a new beginning…each out-breath, a complete letting go.”
Good news…moment by moment. While those extraordinary moments of communion have a particular brilliance to them, mindfulness practice begins to show anyone who gives themselves to it something equally exciting: that virtually every moment can have a similar kind of brilliance.
In our MBSR class, we begin to deliberately venture in that direction by eating a single raisin. Yuck. A raisin?
Yes. And on purpose! (Chocolate doesn’t work quite so well). You can try the exercise here if you’d like.
Five minutes into the raisin, wild new realizations, sensations and observations have arisen – about something that, till that moment, had merited no particular attention.
The experience of fully saturating your attention in that moment, changes that moment. Except for the hard-core raisin haters, people leave sensing, “wow – a raisin has never tasted so good.”
If that’s true about a gnarly raisin moment – what about all the other moments of our day?
No matter what is happening – no matter anything else around you – just stop. Breathe. And see if you can feel the newness.As one of my teachers, Lynn Koerbel, puts it, “you have never breathed this breath before…”
Jesus and This Moment. The connection between the “new moment” of contemplative and Christian traditions was galvanized for me one day when coming across a clip from the latest young adult Christian “Passion conference” in Houston.
Although I don’t typically resonate with everything that happens in these kinds of conferences, these excerpts of a brief sermonette by an African American woman spoke to me deeply.
Trust me – it’s worth a listen! Click here – watching starting at :45 till 2:00. Then again, from 3:49 till approximately 6:40. The transcription of these excerpts follow:
Today is a new day. A fresh start…a blank canvass….
Yesterday is gone. What’s done is done. But today, my friends, is something new!
You…can begin again. Right here. Right now: God can make all things new. That’s not hype – nor a trite promise.
Because in this place, we place zero confidence in human flesh. Yet, we hold forth Jesus. And in his name we can begin again…
Do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing.
Don’t look back. Fix…your gaze…on Jesus. He will lead us on from here.
It’s not important where you come from. What matters is that Jesus will meet you here and you can begin again.
This is what the prophet says – God’s messenger to his people. Don’t be afraid. I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You are mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you won’t go down…because I AM GOD – your personal God. The Holy of Israel. Your Savior. So don’t be afraid. I am with you.
This is what God says – the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves…forget about what’s happened. Don’t keep going over old history. Be alert. Be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?! There it is…I’m making a road through the desert. Rivers through the badlands. Maybe you’ve been in the lost lands – the dried up lands.
Good news: God knows your name. He knows the very number of the seat you’re sitting in, or the place you’re standing. Nothing is hidden from him…yet he is great enough and kind enough to erase your sin. He is strong enough to cause dried up hearts to beat again. There is no stain or blight, no shame or scar, no mess or guilt that Jesus cannot repair. There is no sin that has not been covered at the cross. For God has said, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more.” And the prophets spoke, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow!”…Welcome to a new day. Welcome to a fresh start!
What was it like listening to that for you? I wish I could hear you speak…For me, it said something powerful: This is a new moment. It really is!
And more than that: this moment is not ‘new’ – just because….The freshness of this new moment is not just a fact of the universe. It is possible because of Christ.
If not for what He did, each new moment would be constrained and enslaved by what happened before it (this is how behavioral psychology often talks, incidentally – with our experiences dictated by our past). As Amulek puts it:
“For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made” (Alma 34:9)
According to this teaching (and my experience), it is only because of Christ that we can move – fresh – into a wholly new, completely distinct moment. Amulek elaborates on exactly this point – in perhaps the most hopeful verse in all of scripture:
“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you. For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34: 31)
Notice – he could have said, “come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold this month (or this year, or this week) is the time of your salvation…” He didn’t! He said NOW.
No matter what has come before, no matter how awful or confused or lost we might feel now…the good news is this: this can be a new moment.
Can I hear a Hallelujah, anyone?!