The post below is from last year. I wrote it in much different circumstances. My first book was about to be published, spring had just come (Easter was earlier last year), I was on a high from a successful production, feeling great--the world was my oyster.
This year, things are different. There have been some disappointing set-backs with my next book. I've been involved in some difficult disagreements. The success of the last play has faded and I'm in the stressful part of the next show. My health isn't all I wish it was and I've been ill and in some pain for a while now. Of course, I am very blessed, in absolute as well as relative terms. My point is that I'm not in the same ebullient place as I was when I wrote this piece.
But that is the miracle of Easter, the miracle of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. His Atonement is there to give hope in the darker times and to ground and magnify our joy in the good times. Life changes, and fortunes ebb and flow but the Christ and His promises to give us beauty out of ashes remain constant And that is worth celebrating.
Happy Good Friday! I’ve always loved Good Friday, it’s a peaceful, gentle sort of day. Hyacinths and daffodils are blooming, the trees are flowering, birds are singing, and the weather is mild and comfortable. It’s really quite a good holiday.
The great irony, and I am supremely unoriginal in passing this along, is that Good Friday is only good for us because it was so very, very bad for the Savior. His suffering the night before in the Garden of Gethsemane when he confronted every evil, ugly, and troubling aspect of mortality left him physically and spiritually weakened. I can’t comprehend the pain that would have killed any of us. Eventually it left, but it would have also left Him terribly, horribly, painfully exhausted. I think of busy days when I was tired, how hard it was to get through them, and then I think of him. Facing his greatest suffering at the time of his weakest physical and spiritual state. Fatigue makes everything seem so much worse.
And then, to be mocked and beaten and scorned by the very people you were trying to save….
I have a small tradition I do on Good Friday. I note the time at nine-o-clock and then think of Him being nailed to the cross. I try to watch the clock and notice just how long six hours is and I try to understand the love that drove Him to allow Himself to suffer like this—and the love that drove his Father to allow it as well.
The first Good Friday must have seemed like a living, neverending hell.
Had it ended there, it would have been tragic and awful. But Good Friday was merely the prologue. It set the stage for the astounding miracle of the Resurrection.
The immense suffering and pain were necessary to generate the power behind the tremendous miracle.
But here’s what I’ve been thinking about. To me, Easter Sunday is the promise of healing and life. Easter Sunday was the culmination—the Resurrection broke the hold of death and pain and sealed Jesus’ ability to heal us. But, I have to wonder if perhaps His profound suffering on Good Friday produced the empathy and the compassion that motivate Him to heal us. His triumph on Easter gave Him power, but perhaps His suffering on Good Friday gave Him the motivation to do all He does—and taught him how to nurture and nourish us in our own suffering.
I believe in the miracle of Easter. It’s not just a myth or a fable. It is a living reality, a true story—and so is the hero of the story. My hero. Jesus Christ. I know He’s real. And I know that because in so many ways, inside and out, physically and spiritually, He has healed me.
I wrote the lyrics to a song in my book. I don’t post them thinking I am a great lyricist. These are simply my personal expression of faith and gratitude—my witness of the reality of Jesus’ love and healing power—even today (you can hear a beautiful singer sing this, incidentally, on my book trailer). It’s my personal celebration of the miracle of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
“He Healeth Me”
In life He healed the blind man,
His mercy touched the lame.
The leprous and the halt,
The deaf man and the dumb,
He healed all who came.
In pages of the scriptures,
Their stories testify
Of the Master’s love and power,
And sound this joyful cry
He healeth me.
“He healed and blessed so many,
But that was long ago,
Today, I too have sorrow, sicknesses, and sin,
And wonder where to go.
Why doesn’t He still heal?
Why can I not be whole?
Will he not calm the tempest
That rages in my soul?
In my despair I waver,
My faith begins to shrink
Until from living water,
I humbly start to drink,
And then I see
He healeth me.
Across the years and miles,
I’ll find Him if I seek,
He’ll take away my burdens,
Give strength where I am weak.
He’ll comfort me in sorrow,
Heal sickness, cleanse my sin.
Now I can testify,
With all my grateful heart,
He healed me.
He truly healed me.
(copyright, Braden Bell 2010)
A few weeks ago I wrote a post lamenting the fact the in a sexually saturated culture, we've essentially put our kids in cars, taken away the guardrails and told them to drive as fast as they can.
That post generated quite a bit of email from people, both in agreement and disagreement, and those emails have led me to a lot of further thought.
I found a very interesting article in the New York Times in which the author recounts being 14 and having her first chance for a sexual encounter. At the last minute, she decided she wasn't ready and and left. In her words:
"...I said no, sorry, I wasn’t ready after all. We broke up the next morning, and then got back together again days later, and then broke up a few more times. I eventually did go to third; yes, I did. I grew up; I got married; I had children; decades passed, and I lived through personal happiness and disappointment, and I barely thought about this little moment again until recently. What I had given myself, in saying no back then, was the luxury of time — time to figure out what I wanted, what felt best. No is like being in graduate school; you’re allowed to think for a while, and not be in the world." (Meg Wolitzer, emphasis added, entire article here).
This writer is not making a moral or religious case for teen abstinence/postponement. She makes what I think is a very rational case that people from different backgrounds can probably agree on. "What's the rush? Take some time. Wait a little. In retrospect, you won't regret waiting. You loose nothing by taking some time and maturing. On the other hand, if you rush it, you could lose a great deal and have some regrets." I think that is a very healthy message for kids--teens and adolescents to read. It doesn't have to be draconian or heavy-handed. Well said, Ms. Wolitzer.
Every now and then, something hits me, and when it does, it literally takes my breath away. This evening was one such occasion.
It hits me from time to time just how large a trust I have as a teacher. My school trusts me, my headmaster trusts me, the parents of my students trust me, and, most of all, my students trust me.
They trust me to teach them what I say I will teach them. My students trust that the plays we do will not be embarrassing to them. Their parents trust me to be fair and impartial in the way I administer discipline.
This aspect of trust is not intimidating. Time and schooling and practice help one be trustworthy in these areas.
The aspect of trust that does give me pause, is when that trust comes down to matters of character. To be in an influential role with young, impressionable students is overwhelming at times.
If I am not effective in teaching them how to properly count a sixteenth note or to lift their soft palates when they sing, if they forget what stage left is or how to cheat out, then nothing catastrophic will happen in their lives.
But if they absorb a bad habit or trait of mine, if, by example or precept, I lead them astray somehow, if my steps falter while they are following--that is very different, and I don't want that on my conscience.
I feel the same way with my own children, but for some reason, it's more acute with other people's children. The trust that a parent shows in turning their child over to a teacher is humbling. The trust that a student shows in following a teacher can be overwhelming.
Some of this is self-inflicted. No one expects a perfect teacher. Teachers--this teacher, at least--are human and fallible. Still, I love my students deeply and dearly and want what's best for them. That means, ironically, that I need to be at my best for them. Every day. All day. All year. They may forget what I tell them, but are less likely to forget what I show them.
And that makes me tremble a bit.
Last night I had a profound experience: I heard a prophet of God speak.
I know that sounds crazy and I thought about not writing this. But this is my blog, a place for me to reflect and ponder. And that's what I'm in the mood to do. I'm always a bit reluctant to be too personal on the blog, since I have such a wide variety of friends who visit--different ages, faiths, political beliefs--still, I suppose it's my blog, so I can be reflective when I choose.
One of the distinctive beliefs (I think it's unique, actually, but am not positive) of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormons) is that God speaks to the earth through prophets again--just as in ancient times with Moses and Elijah and John the Baptist and Peter.
When I became old enough to really understand the boldness of that claim, and mature enough to be aware of all of the implications, I was stunned. I realize that is a pretty big claim to make. It's not very safe. Such a claim inevitably brings derision, accusations of mental illness, and an incredible amount of pressure. People will expect an awful lot from someone who says they are a prophet. That is true both of the prophet, as well as of those who follow the prophet. I realize it is an immense--some would say insane--claim to make.
But before writing me off as either crazy, consider: why wouldn't God send prophets today. And, perhaps Braden is crazy--but what if he's not? Would it be valuable to know that? (If you find yourself curious, feel free to learn more at Mormons.org it's a very non-threatening, easy way to do so.)
I've always found a quiet, internal logic to this claim. If one accepts the Bible and accepts that God used to speak to the world through prophets, then there is a question: why have things changed? Goodness knows that life is much more complicated than it was back in those days. Surely God didn't just get tired or bored? Does He just love us less now?
I've always found that point compelling. It seems logical to me that God would not leave us without living guidance in our day.
But logic and reason aside, there is something deeper--something inside my soul.
Last night I heard a man speak--the man that members of my church believe is a prophet. And as I heard him speak, a spark ignited in my soul. I knew, deep down, that what I was hearing was true, and that it was coming to me through a prophet.
It wasn't that the content was unique or radical or even new. He spoke about marriage--to the young men about preparing for marriage, and for those who were married, being good husbands. Most people of any faith, would probably agree with much of what he said on the merits, without acknowledging anything special. (Cool! I just realized I could link a video of his talk).
But for me, it wasn't the content as much as the source. I heard and just knew in my soul: This is a prophet. Follow him. That was last night, but the feeling continues this morning. A deep and profound peace and knowledge, rooted in the soil of my soul. I feel comfort and surety washing over me in waves, and I know this in an elemental way, the same way I know that God lives and loves me, the same way I know I love my wife and children--it's something in my core.
In a world as topsy-turvy as ours, I find great comfort and joy in knowing that there is a safe channel, a place I can tune to hear God's word, to find safety and peace for myself and my family.
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