Holy Complexion

forty days. facing the world, fasting from phony. fearfully made, fearlessly trusting.

Day Forty

Holy Saturday, and my hands are empty.  I have nothing to cling to, no one to hide behind, and no mask to wear.  Our friend, our teacher, our Lord has been buried… the one who brought us together is gone.  We know because we held his lifeless body, we wiped away the stains of blood, we wrapped him in linens, and we laid him in a tomb.

.

It was a day that put everything in perspective… who else could I pretend to be?  I cannot be phony.  I must be authentic, genuine, and honest.  Nothing else matters, nothing else lasts.

If I believe that I am fearfully made, then I know that Jesus died for a reason — he believes me to be wonderfully, awesomely, uniquely created.  He thinks his torture and death is worth trading that I might not be lost forever.  He thinks I’m that wonderful.

If I believe that every word Jesus said was true, this day is a day of waiting.  It is a day of fearlessly trusting — what he has prophesied will come true.  He said he would return, rebuild the temple, not leave us alone, come in glory, be seated with the Father.  Everything he said is waiting to be fulfilled.

He is honest, He is Truth, He is faithful, and He will make all things new.

We wait, we trust, and we hope.

.

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.

When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me, you will find me.  Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot.
— Jeremiah 29:11-14

Day Thirty-Nine

Jesus, what was it like when they slapped you across the face?  When they spit in your eyes?  Could you taste the hatred and resentment?  They were the ones who knew you and your teachings, but they refused to really know you.  They chose cynicism, doubt, fear, and anger instead of acceptance, openness, and love.

How much did it hurt when they plucked your beard from your face?  When they shoved a wreath of thorns on your head to mock you, when they beat it into your head with the reeds and sticks?  How weak did you feel when they shoved you to the ground and let your face be buried in the dirt?  They were the ones who had no idea who you were, nor did they care.  They relished the way you didn’t fight back as they tortured you; they laughed as you accepted their mockery.

Change our hearts, God.  Don’t let this day pass us by.  Convict us of all the ways we have done this to Your Son, all the ways we deserve the agony he suffered, and all the ways we should die the death he endured.  Let us look into the Savior’s eyes and see his Sacred Heart beating for us until it could beat no more.

Day Thirty-Eight

When I look in the mirror, my face looks so weary to me.  I’m feeling the same about my heart, this week.

The temptation, isolation, and desolation are very real.  I feel attacked, empty, and alone.  Praise you, Lord, for allowing me to enter into your Passion in such a way!

~

Jesus, be with me.  I beg of you the grace to stay awake and keep watch with your friends.  I have come this far!  But I am tempted to turn away and run in fear.  I question my honesty, and  I doubt my authenticity.

Don’t allow me to give up these last few hours with you — don’t allow me to be Judas.  Help me hold on until the end.  We’ve come so far!

Day Thirty-Seven

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him.
Matthew 27:28

What complete humiliation Jesus must have faced.  The community that had seen him preach, feed, heal, and love others also saw him naked, beaten, mocked, and alone.

.

~

Jesus, I can be fearless because you already faced everything for me.  Every loneliness, every humiliation, every mockery, every vulnerability.  I deserve to have my most private affairs and mistakes exploited for all the world to see.  It is the punishment I deserve — for scandalizing my community and turning away from you.  Then they would truly know me as I am: weak, broken, incapable.

You were never any of those things.  You scandalized them because of their hardness of hearts, not because of your weakness.  You never chose to turn from the Father, yet you were exploited for all to see.  And what we saw!  We saw that you are all Truth and Goodness, for there was nothing revealed about you that was to be detested.

What they hated was my hypocrisy.  What they reviled was what I have done.  What they detested was my disfigured heart.

They put it all on you and hated you instead.  Thank you for being humiliated, exploited, and vulnerable for me.  Thank you for covering me, protecting me, and keeping me close.

Day Thirty-Six

It has been so long since I began this journey.  I am used to it, now.  I’m accustomed to seeing myself without makeup, to feeling vulnerable.  It doesn’t surprise me to look in the mirror.  I’m comfortable with what I can offer the world, and I’m getting used to the idea that it might not be what I assumed at the start.

I set out to be uncomfortable, but I am comfortable again.  How did that happen so quickly?

~

Lord, it has been a long time in the desert, but I don’t even seem to notice anymore.  And the fact that I’m used to it scares me.  Jesus, I’m walking with you, but I’m afraid I don’t even notice you anymore.  I have become so accustomed to your presence that I’m not sure I recognize the magnificence of that truth — that you are always with me.  And the fact that I’m used to You scares me.

I can’t be accustomed to this idea that you suffered and died for me.  It should bring me to my knees.  It should devastate me.  It should leave me breathless, amazed, and awed.  How did this happen?  I am comfortable with You when there is nothing comfortable about what you did to be with me.  Take away my apathy.  Open my eyes to see!

Day Thirty-Five

I still haven’t figured it all out.  I still become what someone else wants me to be.  I am still scared to be honest and genuine, to let others see my weakness and failure.  I cling to my pride and am desperate to be loved.  I don’t understand it all.

This week, Holy Week, has taken me by surprise.  I thought I would have figured this all out by now… but I still don’t get it.  I’m scared that this Jesus, who was honest and genuine, became every definition of weakness and failure.  He surrendered all pride so that I might know how much I am loved.

And I don’t understand it.

~

Jesus, I am stumbling into this week as blind as your first disciples.  I thought I was prepared, I thought I was ready to go with you.  I am shaken and stunned by what I’ve heard and seen… can I even continue on?  I don’t have it all figured out, and I don’t understand what you’re doing.  I’m scared and desperate… watching you be abused, ridiculed, and beaten isn’t reassuring me.  Help me understand why you — the most gentle, most loving, most generous, most compassionate — are being treated like a criminal.  They call it blasphemy, but they just don’t know you like we do.  I don’t know why this is happening.

This sacrifice of makeup has taught me that there is nothing but honesty.  All I have is who I am.  Lord, everything was taken from you.  All you had was who You are.  Help me understand at least that — at least one small thing at a time.  Help me be honest about where I am on this journey with you.

Day Thirty-Four

Beauty is deep.  Something in the depths of our hearts surges when we realize we are in the presence of true beauty.

I think that’s why we love beautiful places.  We admire incredibly perfect and beautiful works of art.  The grandeur of nature can leave us in awe.  We seek it — we seek beauty in both simplicity and majesty.  Why?  Because we connect with it.  We yearn for it.  Beauty points us to the Creator.

Beauty is more than the surface.  Beauty is often far below, deeper than the skin.  Sometimes I am blessed to get to know people beyond how they appear.  I get to see beauty shine through their routine, their normalcy, their weaknesses.  Their very soul becomes more beautiful to me as times goes on.  In them, I can see how God has fashioned them to know, love, and serve in a way that only they can.  And it’s beautiful.

~

God, I want to recognize you and your beauty in everything you have made, but most especially in other people.  I desperately hope that they see beauty in me — far beyond the surface, under the skin, past my appearance.  I want them to see beauty that points to You.  Grant me the grace to look at them with the same mercy and love.

Day Thirty-Three

“To be surrendered to God is of more value than our personal holiness.  Concern over our personal holiness causes us to focus our eyes on ourselves, and we become overly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, out of fear of offending God… but “perfect love casts out fear” once we surrender to God.

We do not change so as to be perfect before God; rather, as He perfects us, we change for Him.”

— Oswald Chambers

~

God, help me to let go of this urgent need to achieve holiness.  Focus my heart on surrendering to you.  I won’t earn your love by pretending to be perfect.  Let me change in a genuine response to how you are moving in me.

I cannot change my heart.  I cannot save myself.  Only you, God.  Only you can make me holy and perfect and beautiful.  And you will, when I realize how much I need you.  When I let go.

.

Day Thirty-Two

Now that I’m not spending time covering it up, I am focusing more on taking care of my skin.  I pay more attention to making sure it is clean; I want to scrub and smooth it, even if exfoliant hurts a little.  I want to preserve it and keep it healthy.  I’m finding time to pay attention to caring for it instead of how best to conceal it.

It’s crunch week… time to get down and dirty in preparation for Holy Week.  It’s time that I really focus on my heart — on finding out how best to buff out the rough edges, to preserve it and keep it healthy.  Time to stop ignoring my heart.  Time to stop ignoring where I have failed to prepare for next week, where I have slacked off in my sacrifice this journey.

~

Lord, shine light on my heart.  My face is an easy thing to clean and maintain, especially compared to my heart.  My soul is the only thing worth preserving in this life, the only thing really worthy of my time and investment.  Give me the courage to strip everything away and face what is underneath.  I may be discouraged, disillusioned, and heartbroken to find what I see.  Reassure me that my brokenness gives you an opportunity to enter my life.  I want you there, Lord.  I want you in my heart, my brokenness, in the midst of my confusion and despair.

Day Thirty-One

When I don’t have anything to give, I can smile.  When I can’t be anything more than I am, my eyes can still speak silent words.  When I feel inadequate, I can rely on the truth that God created me for many unique purposes.  I possess gifts, abilities, words, mannerisms, attitude, perspective, and personality in a way that no one else does.  I have something that no one else can give.

The craziest part?  God thinks He made me so perfectly and so wonderfully that I ought to see myself as a priceless gift to everyone around me.

The beauty?  I’m starting to see each of them as a perfect give to me.

~

Jesus, remind me that it’s more than having something to give — it’s loving in a way that no one else can love.  You are a God of variety and a God of detail… nothing is lost in your plan.  Everything about me will be used for your greater glory, if I allow it.

Master, you have already given it all to me… accept it as I place it back in your hands.  You know how best to use it.