It feels like therapy, like an AA meeting, like a long lunch on a sunny patio with a good friend. Most weeks after worship a member of my church will offer what we call our spiritual journey. We gather our chairs into just the right-sized circle, giving our attention and support to the speaker.
Forty-five minutes to try to explain how we made it to this spot, why we turned out the way we did. Some have stories of broken families, of addiction, of abuse, of lost jobs, of being children of immigrants.
Very few of us make it through to adulthood without struggle and pain. As we listen to the speaker we cry with them, laugh with them. We ask questions and for clarifications. When the hour is up we all know each other and ourselves that much better. The stories are specific and intimate yet universal.
It is an amazing, cathartic, community-building experience, and I recommend it to everyone. When else will you be able to talk about yourself to a group of people who are so supportive, empathetic and quiet? And for free!
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Everyone has a story inside, a history. Everyone has ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies — many times in the same day. But as difficult as things are, if we look hard enough, there is always a ray of hope. Something that gets us out of bed in the morning and lets us finally rest at night.
Maybe this time it isn’t a spouse, a pastor, or a parent who steps up with a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen to our mourning. It could be a co-worker, a nurse, a yoga instructor, or a distant cousin, just someone who takes a chance on being vulnerable with us.
It is one of the greatest gifts that anyone can receive.
Theologian and Jesuit priest James Keenan said, “Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” It’s true, right? Step into my chaos. It is enough most days to deal with my own chaos without bothering with someone else’s. We feel like we only have so much time, energy, and maybe even so much love to give. But this is what makes us human. It is what reveals the spirit within us. It is how we worship — by loving one another.
In Matthew 14, Jesus is off alone on the mountain praying, enjoying a much deserved rest after helping feed 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread, a lesson in mercy in itself.
But when a storm comes up, the first thing he thinks about is that he has a boat full of friends in the middle of a lake. He knows they are terrified. He goes to them, sharing in their anguish by entering the violent storm.
It’s not so much walking on water that is the miracle; it’s the fact that Jesus interrupts his plans and steps into chaos for his friends. That is mercy.
Brandon Pomeroy is one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.