“Pray for her. She has swelling on her brain,” the text flashed right next to me and God. We were already deep in conversation at the foot of the bed. It’s our morning spot and we just expect to meet there.
“Praying.” It’s one word that sometimes has no human words to put to it. Sometimes we say “praying” and really mean, “No words.” But we know the Holy Spirit is groaning.
“She died for fifteen minutes. Then woke up.” Another text and, yes, God still raises the dead.
Three days later she left for good. Left for Good. And in a way that pain doesn’t readily understand, is it permitted to breathe, ““She left for what is good?” And nearly suffocate in the saying of it? Because how can it be breathed when its husband, children, parents who are left behind? It must first be breathed by them before anyone else dares strip them of the pain that is theirs to know.
May I say that the best comfort is mostly wordless? Because the pain must be felt in human shell. And all tears that fall over it are salty depth sea water. It’s silent and deep to sink just all closed up human shell to the bottom. And something hidden happens there if we comforters will let them lie down there and just let our own tears mingle with theirs, though we sink not like they do, and let Holy Spirit groan and Jesus pray.
And there was another text. Another “Pray.” A mother with daughter in hospital because she can’t make herself eat. Severe anorexia. It’s mental illness and terror to be trapped in your own mind. The pain etches, saps life and an IV needle presses life from a bag into vein and mother’s anguish bulges vein and presses a river out of eyes shut against it.
It’s nearly Good Friday and try walking the path to the cross wrung out weak beneath grief. Is there someone to quietly carry life sapped dry through? Someone to carry girl whose hunger is self-starvation and she can’t hold up her own frame?
And there is friend close as natural family, fanged by lupus and “lupus” means “wolf.” I push her feet into the car because she has a doctor appointment and can’t drive anymore and can’t lift her own feet and sometimes she cries and I bend over her and press my cheek against her row braids and just press “God, grant her grace for this now moment.” Just press it into her ear and know that God Spirit is all holy grace press into her spirit. She finds praise that frees her where mere muscle is locked down. She makes jewelry from her wheelchair that customers buy for hundreds of dollars and she shows me a piece she’s commissioned to create while we eat gourmet crackers and cheese and grapes and carry each other.
Then there are those we call addicts and alcoholics and food addicts who are only eaten by a different wolf. Who can no more make themselves stop indulging than the anorexic can make herself eat, or the mourners from feeling it.
There is a stump of a pecan tree topped with snarled twigs sprouting bewildered there just beyond backyard fence. It’s just stump and tangle and it’s what confusion looks like. It has no idea what it’s doing and I have no idea why it’s still there. It wouldn’t be, if it were in my backyard, because just looking at it is confusing.
But I’m looking at it now and, “Is that what the multitudes looked like to You when You rode into Jerusalem?” I ask Him. “No wonder You wept over them!”
“They didn’t know what things made for their peace.”
The Prince of Peace was right there and they were waving palm fronds and shouting out “Hosanna in the highest” as He rode by.
“I don’t understand,” I venture unsure. Because there is small whisper back of my soul saying that I do understand and that I do the same thing. I mouth worship words and do worship things just because everybody else is and my attention is not on the One who humbled Himself quiet and low and then weeps over me like He wept over Jerusalem.
“They didn’t know what they were doing.” He said it.
And there’s this whisper again. I hear it as we look at the stump of confusion.
I confess what is there because it’s so painful true. “That stump would not still be there if it were up to me. I’d cut it off and shed not a tear over it.”
“I’d give it new life,” His voice catches and we aren’t talking about the stump anymore.
I have no words of my own. Just His because I’ve been in His words this Holy Week and He helps me remember some of them.
He comes humbly. First in Bethlehem stable and then on donkey’s colt in Jerusalem. And He needed the donkey colt. The Son Of God needed. And said so. “I need a donkey’s colt,” He told His disciples. “Here is where you’ll find one and tell its owner that I need it.”
He humbles Himself. He could have ridden in high on a horse. And maybe the crowd would have preferred that because it’s less convicting. Less convicting of our own pride and strength if the One Who is King rides high.
But He didn’t. Not this time. Because He knows why He is where He is and what He’s doing there. He’s not stump and I’m convicted because I am like that stump. I am like the confused multitudes that day in Jerusalem. I don’t always see Him when I’m mouthing praise to Him. And I can read pages of His word and not remember one word about Him.
“Ahh” Understanding crosses my mind. “That’s how it happens. That’s how they go from ‘Hosanna in the highest’ to ‘Crucify Him’ within days.”
“They didn’t know what they were doing.” He reminds me again.
“Didn’t they know what they were even saying when they cried out ‘Hosanna!’”?
“Do you know?”
“Well. Hmm. Not exactly.” I admit and grab phone and google, “What does Hosanna mean” and I can feel God watching this and almost hear Him laughing to Himself about this age of technology. But I find, right quick, what John Piper says about it.
“Our English word ‘hosanna,’” he writes, “comes from a Greek word ‘hosanna’ which comes from a Hebrew phrase ‘hoshiya na’.”
He goes on to explain that the Hebrew meaning is, “Save, please!” It’s Psalm 118:25 and the plea rose up one verse and one breath away from “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” One breath only between “Save, please!” and “Salvation has come!” One breath between death and life.
I’m wondering about these things. And about waving palms and crying out “Save, please!” and “Salvation has come!”
I’m wondering because I don’t know much about palm trees, but I do know that they are resilient. They don’t break easily. The just bend in storms and then stand up again.
I wonder at this because, “Lord, You rode low on a donkey’s colt and walked all over palm fronds. Stomped hoof all over the resilience the multitudes waved while shouting, “Save, please!” But all while waving what is resilient in fist. While wrapping their fingers around resilience and closing their palms over it and You wept over them, saying, “You don’t know what makes for your peace even as I stand, the Prince of it, right here in front of you,” (see Luke 19:41-42).
And days later they shouted “Free Barabbas the murderer! Kill Jesus the Savior!”
Because they didn’t know what they were doing.
Understanding crosses deeper. I just stand in my backyard and all I want to do is shake open my hands and stretch my fingers wide and turn my palms downward like that so that I can hold nothing. Then turn them upward to Jesus. And I dare not move a muscle right now, because we so quickly press fingers over fronds of resilience and close it against palm and wave it. Wave our resilience high while He rides low and then opens His palms and nails pierce there and pain pressed through everywhere.
There are those who really get this. They have laid their palms down beneath Jesus’ feet and colt hoof and cried out true, “Hosanna in the highest! Save us to the uttermost!”
Because they have been trodden and they know there is no recovery, no peace, no new life outside of God.
They know what they are saying when they cry out “Hosanna!”
And they know what they are doing when they lay down resilience because they know that sin is resilient and is impossible to break unless it’s laid down at Jesus feet.
They look out of place in the multitude of worshippers. They are a motley group who can’t stop tear flow. Who stagger sometimes. Whose skin is scarred by wolf attacks. Who are stranded without a wheelchair, their humble low ride.
And they are the ones who really know that the only way to the Father is though the One who was made Pearl of Greatest Price because He was shell of human flesh made sin and drowned in His own blood and descended to the bottomless and came up pearl gate. And He is Pearl Gate. The only way into the Father’s kingdom.
They know the only rescue is in Him who was buried below the humus earth. Below humble. Then entered behind hell’s gates. And rescued .
They know more of these things. Because they are the mother mourning her son’s death this Holy week. The daughter dying of anorexia, starved by hunger. The husband, children, parents mourning the one who left them for a lifetime because a whole life can be lived in fifteen minutes, and was raised from the dead, and then left for good. The woman who pounds silver and polishes stones and strings jewels though wolf bites excruciating and sometimes she wants to leave for Good. And those who frequent meetings because they’ve drowned in their swallow and felt hell lick their heels.
These cry, “Hosanna!” These know what makes for their peace. These pray the Lord’s Prayer together and are not being rehabilitated but new-habilitated. All newly clothed and covered for new life. They call out “Hosanna! Save, please! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and are recovered. Re-covered.
And no wonder. The very word “recovered” is Latin rooted, “re-caperare.” It’s “recaptured.” It’s related to “heave to” old English meaning “to halt the headway of a ship by turning rudder.” And ship is vessel, and we are vessel. It’s “to obtain a final legal judgment in one’s own favor” (Webster’s dictionary). And isn’t that just exactly what Jesus did? It is!
The path to Paradise is etched in pain and eroded by tear flow and water flow and blood flow and we hang out to dry like the transgressors on their own crosses. There was flow from the cross. Sweat flow. Blood flow. Tear flow. Sap of life flowed down dry cross wood and sapped life from Life.
And He died for all the sin that we cry over.
Because sin hurts.
It hurts to fall down hard and we are fallen and soul scraped and spirit bruised. And He held back dammed up sin from damning us and the River of Life spills from Him, out His heart through His mouth.
He is the mouth of the River of Life and His words spill over us ‘til we who are sapped snap dry, shriveled because we’ve cried ourselves dry,scratch out "Hosanna. Save, please."
And He speaks out from mouth, Life words, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.”
“Hosanna in the highest! Save, please! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
written by: Carolyn Roehrig