Our next blog series focuses on the grace we pray for in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises: to know, to love, and to follow Jesus. Today Kathy Powell shares with us how we can be brave like Jesus.
With the laptop in the middle of the living room floor, my three kids and I gathered around to listen to the bible story. This year’s virtual Vacation Bible School has been quite different from the usual week of camp with its bright t-shirts and jam-packed mornings, but it has been a nice addition to our socially-distanced summer days.
With the week’s theme of compassion, this particular day’s focus was on the healing of the paralytic in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 2:1-12) and the theme of bravery. The VBS leader, in her brightly colored t-shirt, talked through how each member of the story was brave. When she said, “And Jesus had courage, too,” I felt myself nodding. Of course Jesus had courage. In my head, I instantly listed times he stood against the scribes, against the norms of current society, against hatred and cruelty – all of those times took boldness and bravery.
By this time, my kids were yelling responses at the screen, so I joined in and asked them when they had been brave. My middle child couldn’t think of any examples, so I instantly listed, “You were brave yesterday when you had to hold your leg still so I could wash your cut. You were brave biking up the big hill. You are brave every time you help Anna be brave when she’s scared.” When we had finished talking about how brave the friends were to make a hole in the roof and how we can be brave to help others, the kids ran off to grab a snack and I was left laying on the carpet with a small nugget of quiet time.
In my ease of listing the actions of Jesus and my daughter, I realized that in some ways, I know Jesus in the way that I know my family. In my time spent with Jesus in prayer throughout the years, turning to my inner chapel daily, reading the scriptures, and learning from others, I have come to see Jesus as my friend and to know Jesus in the way I know those close to me.
As I thought again of the bible story, I leaned into my love of imaginative prayer and placed myself in the story. In the past, I have imagined myself as the paralytic and the story has taught me the importance of leaning on others and accepting help. This time, I placed myself as one of the friends holding the mat. As the scene played out in my mind, I paid special attention to how I felt as I made the hole in the roof. It didn’t feel like bravery. I felt such peace that it was the way to bring my friend to Jesus, so my bold action seemed like just the next right step. When I heard Jesus say, “Rise, pick up your mat, and go home,” I was not shocked or surprised or awed like I had been in previous readings of this story. I was overwhelmingly thankful. My friend Jesus had done what I knew was of Jesus’ character. Jesus saw my friend’s faith and acted out of love and compassion, regardless of the naysayers.
In these last few months, as COVID-19 has continued to spread and affect every facet of our lives, even ordinary tasks have needed extra courage and bold action. There is bravery in choosing to stay home. There is bravery in choosing to go out. Setting aside time for prayer, and bringing the reality of my current situation and all of my emotions to the Lord, has grounded me in hope and empowered me to have courage like Jesus. I do not know the details of how I’ll get there, but I’m committed to continuing to walk. Like the friend holding the mat, my daughter biking up the hill, and all of us making decisions in this current time, bravery seems to be simply taking the next step when you don’t know the outcome. Jesus has helped me realize that simply continuing to walk into the unknown is brave. In surrendering my plan and destination, there is tremendous peace, even in the midst of chaos.
As I moved in my prayer to thanking Jesus for our friendship and steadfastness during this storm, I was sneak-attacked by my plotting kids, who had been slowly crawling over to me while my eyes were closed. “Ok, Jesus, we’ll meet up again later, I need to go tickle my kiddos.”
How are you being invited to be brave? I challenge you to dive into scripture, try imaginative prayer, and draw on the courage of Jesus.
- Listen to Becky guide you in your own imaginative prayer using the scripture of the paralyzed man here.
- How to pray with your imagination: Ignatian Contemplation Prayer Card
- Scriptures for Support:
Photo by Joyce McCown on unsplash.