Many times in life, that which causes our greatest grief and sorrow is also the stimuli for our deepest spiritual growth. It’s a paradox that illness can bring healing, vulnerability can bring security, death can bring new life.
Paradox is a theme in our chapter this week in our Lenten book, “The Restoration Project” as we consider what it means to be stripped.
In “The Restoration Project” the author aligns being stripped with deterioration, with the process of reversing the deterioration of DaVinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper by stripping away years of dirt as well as paint from previous attempts at restoration.
We humans deteriorate too from unhealthy behaviors such as feelings of entitlement, prejudice, and judging. Jesus reminds us that we are not to behave this way; we are not to strip others of their basic human right for dignity and integrity.
And yet people are stripped all the time.
People are stripped of life - think of those murdered or under the threat of terrorism and war.
Stripped of hope, think of those in poverty or war torn regions or deeply depressed.
One can be stripped of integrity, think of those who are raped, abused or belittled, those who have suffered decades of racism or sexism or genderism.
One can be stripped of responsibility if one is fired or laid off or in other ways deprived of meaningful work.
One can be stripped of one’s identity by abuse or oppression or imprisonment.
One might be stripped of one’s name, sold into marriage or kidnapped or trapped into sex trafficking or human slave labor.
One might be stripped of one’s knowledge by disease or an accident.
There are countless ways that one can be stripped.
On the other hand, stripping can be paradoxical. When one is intentional, one can be stripped of the behaviors that limit our ability to grow in relationship with God.
Stripped of envy, greed, gossip, complaining, or a failure to embrace our true self-worth as God sees us.
These may be unconscious; learned behaviors from our family system, or socially reenforced values that emphasize the individual at the expense of everyone else.
No doubt there are behaviors and values from modern society that we need to be stripped of. Stripped of these so that we can recognize the ways that God is active in our lives.
When we are able to truly embrace the depth of God’s love for us we find we have no need for envy, for greed, for self-aggrandizement, for belittling others, for belittling self.
As one develops a sense of self, grounded in God, one also forms within one’s self a deeper level of self-awareness and other awareness, of compassion and acceptance of others for being who they are.
This is restoration of, and for, the soul.