"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Monday, April 10, 2006 Station III - Jesus falls for the first time
Jesus falling isn't just about him being tired and beaten. It's about failure and humiliation. About not being able to complete a task. Not being able to do it.
What does it matter? The die is cast. Jesus is on his way to die. What does it matter if he can carry the cross the whole way. But even the condemned have pride. The last thing you hold onto is the ability to walk to your execution with your head held high. Even though it's the end, how you approach it is your last bit of control.
It's Prince Richard's response to Prince Geoffery in A Lion in Winter.
"As if it matters how a man falls down."
"When the fall is all that's left, it matters a great deal.
On the walk to Golgotha, we remember that we are the Body of Christ. What happens to him happens to us and vice versa. And so his falling is not an ancillary detail -- it's critical.
Christ failed. Christ fell. Even he -- he tried to carry this weight but he could not.
I wonder what he thought, I wonder what he felt as he tumbled down that first time. As he felt the shame. As even how he died was wrested from his control.
In our culture, we're taught to fear failure. It's one of the most dangerous things we're taught. Because fear of failure keeps us on safe ground. And great things never happen there.
Jeffrey Sachs says that this is the first moment in human history when we can end extreme poverty. That for the first time ever, we have the combination of the resources, the technology and the delivery systems to get the job done.
But there's no guarantee. In fact, if you think the statistics on how many small businesses fail in their first year are sobering ... you should take a look at how many well-meaning start-up nonprofits never see three equinoxes.
Sachs is right ... we CAN do this. But we can also fail. And the best of us do it all the time.
But if that makes us stop trying, then we are not followers of the one who fell. If that makes us step far back from the edge to the safe ground where little is ventured and even less is gained, then I don't see how we can claim to be Christians at all.
Jesus fell. Jesus failed. And in so doing, he sanctified failure for all of us. We should not fear it nor let it make us timid but boldly charge into its breach trusting that even the most spectacular of failures are redeemable.
What matters is not whether we stand or fall -- but if falling is all that's left.... well then, HOW we fall matters greatly.
Station IV -- Jesus meets his mother
I'm not sure there's anything worse than outliving your children.
When we visited Southern Sudan, we sat with members of the Mothers' Union in Lui. Wherever you go in Africa, you can bet that some of the most amazing and strongest people you will meet will be members of mother's unions. They have seen it all. They have endured it all.
Yesterday, I told you about Mama Jennifer, who starved herself so her grandchild might eat. Her story is not unique. As the women in the Lui Mothers' Union introduced themselves every single one of them had lost a child to illness or war. Every one had outlived a child.
It's the part of the "every three seconds a child dies" that we might not often think about.
That every three second, a sword pierces the heart of a mother.
I cannot imagine what that pain is like. The closest I've ever come is when I buried Julia McNeely, who just felt like a daughter to me. Even now as I type this, the tears come. And yet even though I have come to know, love and respect Leine McNeely, I cannot know what her pain must be -- or how she like the mothers of Lui have found the amazing strength to go on.
Every three seconds, a mother's heart breaks in ways that can never fully be repaired. It should be a cacophany of shattering that horrifies us, awaken us, and calls us to action. But it doesn't.
Instead it is a silent sobbing that the world ignores.
Jesus met his mother on that road. A brief moment. Maybe a glance. Maybe even an embrace before he was torn from her forever.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."