In Sunday’s message I introduced the notion of circumstantial rites of passage. These are those moments of disorientation when we are confronted with a life circumstance that nothing in our past has prepared us to face.
The tragic events of 9/11 was one of those times of disorientation for us as individuals, for us as a nation, and, even for the world. The world watched in stun silence, in total disbelief as those unforgettable events unfolded. Time seemed to stand still. It was a circumstantial rite of passage. It was up to each of us who lived through those experiences to decide how it would change us, make us different people after the fact.
The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus that still holds the world in its grip is another time, an enormously long time, of disorientation in which we are still living. It is another rite of passage with no clear end in sight. And unlike the events of 9/11, there is no tangible enemy from whom we can seek retribution, no point source to direct our anger and frustration. There is no Osama bin Laden to blame for our loss, disorientation, and suffering.
Circumstantial rites of passage, by their very nature, in the darkest and most challenging moments, beg for someone on whom to place the blame for our suffering. If we succumb to the blame and let our need for retribution define us, the rite of passage is wasted. We sink back into the self we were before the crisis came only this time we do so harboring the bitterness, anger, and frustration caused by the crisis. When we choose this self these are things that now define us.
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he looked down on the people who put him there. He could have called them names, condemned them to hell, called upon God to rain down fire from heaven on them and made them pay for the crime they committed against him. He chose a different pathway. He chose not to be defined by them and their actions. He chose to be defined by God’s love and compassion, forgiveness and mercy. He chose how he would be defined, not the circumstances he faced.
That’s the power and significance of a rite of passage. It makes us choose who we will be and how we will be defined when the crisis ends. Will we be defined by the circumstance, embittered, angry, out for blood? Or will we choose a different way of being. Jesus’ words on the cross were, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) He chose God’s way to be in the world and paved the way for all of us to follow him on that path.
The global pandemic has changed and challenged much about our lives. It’s impact on us, how we will be defined when the all clear is sounded, whenever that will be, is up to us. The good news is, Jesus still invites us to choose his way. God’s love conquers all when we make it our way.
Be a blessing to someone today!