Daniel desires with all his heart to be free of the cell in which he is today imprisoned. He’s done hard time, more than a decade behind bars. He’s learned his lesson.
Or maybe it’s “lessons.”
Because, as much as Daniel desires to be sprung, he’s also come to see incarceration as a curious sort of grace in his life. A change agent. A trial by fire, forging in him a new way to look at the peaks and valleys that characterize life.
Daniel no longer prays that the valleys be removed. He now recognizes them as openings—cracks in a once-tough and brittle exterior that have allowed Christ to enter in and change him.
But the process, he knows, is not yet complete. So rather than asking that the low points be removed, he offers a different prayer during times of trial: “No backsliding, Lord. Help me keep moving toward You.”
That’s what Daniel told us during ‘open mic’ time at our monthly reunion at Menard yesterday. And then he shared with us a bit more—the words of a reflection he’d encountered in a devotional magazine.
If our afflictions are so sanctified as that they draw out our soul . . .
to love the Lord more, and
to fear the Lord more, and
to please the Lord more, and
to cleave to the Lord more, and
to wait on the Lord more, and
to walk with the Lord more—
then they are sent in love.
Oh, then they are the wounds of a friend indeed!
If the afflictions that are upon us do . . .
increase our courage,
strengthen our patience,
raise our faith,
inflame our love, and
enliven our hopes—
certainly they are sent in love,
and all our wounds are the wounds of a friend.
It surprised me to hear these words yesterday, from the lips of a man doing hard time. It amazed me, later, to learn that they’d originally been penned by the Puritan Thomas Brooks in the mid-1600s. And it strikes me that they are an utterly appropriate way to meditate on the profound mystery we enter into today—as Holy Week begins.
God, who is Love, does not run from the trials and torture that lie ahead. God moves—with purpose and resolve—toward them.
He embraces the wounds, and through this loving act, we are sanctified. Can we ever doubt, then, the power of wounds in our lives? When gaze upon the cross, we see the truth: They are the wounds of a friend, indeed.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Amen, John…and Daniel! A blessed Holy Week & Easter!