Monday, April 02, 2012

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary - Day THIRTY-FIVE

2 Corinthians 1:1-7, New Living Translation

   Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
   To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia: 

   Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

   Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 


Nine times. 

Nine times Paul uses some form of the word 'comfort,' both noun and verb. 

That's a lotta times in seven short verses, don't you think? Maybe, just maybe, this is an important idea. 

Maybe, just maybe, Paul knows that the church in Corinth - and the church anywhere, anytime - needs to see that word printed out a whole lotta times. 

And seeing it here reminds me of that verse in the Shepherd's Psalm - "thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me..." 

The same word - but used in a way that makes me stop for a minute. Stop and wonder if maybe some of the ideas in that psalm might be applied to Paul's writing - and to our own lives. 

Most of us probably have a picture that springs to mind when we think of the word 'comfort': 

     a favorite spot/blanket/person;
     a particular kind of food;
     an activity that makes us feel better, inside and out;
     a word or phrase that stills and centers us;
     a hug - a pat on the back - a sympathetic face. 

But I'm guessing our go-to picture probably does not include a 'rod' or a 'staff.' 

So that got me thinking. Maybe I'm stuck in my oh-so-comfortable rut when it comes to understanding just what this whole idea means. Maybe there are ways to be comforted that I've never dreamed of or experienced. Or maybe I have experienced them - but in a way I did not immediately recognize as comfort. 

Maybe Paul is talking about things like: 

     a friend/spouse/mentor who can say to us, 'enough' - encouraging us to set a boundary/say 'no'/stop for a while;
     a verse/book/poem/video/movie/song/blog post that catches our eye, our ear and then our heart, reminding us there is 'more to life than increasing its speed;' 
     a skilled listener, who can - just by sitting quietly and asking a careful question or two - help us to realize where we have taken a misstep and offer us the gentlest of course corrections. 

Because sometimes I think we get so caught up in our own spinning wheels that we lose touch with the truth that we NEED comfort, we need someone to truly see us, to help us step out of the dis-comfort we're drowning in without realizing it. 

Sometimes we need the breath of the Spirit - often delivered to us through the presence of another human person - to blow fiercely enough to stop us in our tracks, to remind us that we're creating a regular lifestyle addiction to overdoing everything. 

Because sometimes the 'trouble' we find ourselves in is the result of... 
     our own driven-ness, 
     our inability to know our yeses well enough to say 'no' when we need to, 
     our eternal need to be needed. 

Maybe that's when we need the comfort of a rod and staff. Maybe that's when we need a different way of experiencing the 'comfort that abounds in Christ.' 


God of All Comfort, help us to keep our eyes open, our hearts pliable, our spirits willing to be comforted in exactly the way you desire us to be. And empower us, by the gracious breath of your Spirit, to be open to providing comfort - in all its permutations and colors - to others in need. For Jesus' sake.