I don’t know about you, but I have to renew my relationship with God every single day. I have to look myself in the face in the bathroom mirror and let myself know that I still believe in God. I have to take a deep breath and remember that I am alive for one reason and one reason only — because God is still speaking and singing and loving me into existence.
Some days I look myself in the eye in the mirror and I know I don’t have it. Not today. I scratch off some dried toothpaste splatters from the mirror and take that deep breath and wonder where it all could possibly go. So quickly ’cause yesterday I had it. Yesterday, I was so full. Yesterday, I had that electricity surging up from the soles of my feet and arcing across the spaces between my fingertips. Yesterday, I had that peace in my heart that makes me want to run around the block a dozen times just to tire myself out enough that I can be still and know. And know that you are God.
Why do I have it some days and other days not? Heck, I’ve never used the word “it” more times in two paragraphs. But I use “it” now because I don’t know how to be more specific. I don’t have the vocabulary to express the utter joy I have when I discover and rediscover that I am a vessel of God’s grace, of God’s light shining in the darkness.
I do have the vocabulary to describe the days when I don’t have it, when I can’t seem to access the grace that I’m sure dances all around and within me. Restlessness. Exhaustion. Void. Desolation. Despair. I try to fill my day up so that it can end and I can sleep and I can wake up tomorrow and I can look myself in the mirror again.
In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells his disciples what’s going to happen to him. I’m going to suffer and be rejected. And I’m going to be killed. And three days later I’m going to rise again. And Peter rebukes Jesus for saying these things that couldn’t possibly happen to someone who he, Peter, has just proclaimed to be the Messiah. But Jesus rebukes him back: “You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus says something that makes looking myself in the eye in the mirror so very difficult: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
When I don’t have “it,” when I am desolate and the void seems so real and close and gaping wide, I forget that I gave up my life a long time ago. I gave it up, and when the world closes in I grasp at straws trying to grip that life again. I set my mind on those human things that only fill me up like junk food. And I spiral downwards from desolation to despair because my chosen cure is more of the disease.
So every single day, I have to renew my relationship with God. I have to decide to become a follower of Jesus Christ again and again and again. Sometimes, when I’m looking at myself in the mirror, I turn around and see the cross tattooed on my back. I remember that I got that cross etched into my skin because I so often lost the one I wore around my neck. My right hand reaches for the top of the tattoo and feels the raised bump of the black lines. I take that deep breath and know that God sure as hell isn’t done with me yet.
And so Jesus hands me the cross. And Jesus puts me and my cross on his back. And today — maybe not yesterday, and maybe not tomorrow, but today — I have “it.”