Thursday, March 05, 2015

Are you __________ with me, Jesus?

Malcolm Boyd, who died a week ago tomorrow at the age of 91, famously ended a poem entitled "Morning Prayer" with the question "Are you running with me, Jesus?"  This question was also the title of a book of prayers, poems and reflections he published in the 1960's, in his ongoing attempt to bring Jesus to the real lives of people.  The prayer bears repeating in its entirety:

A Morning Prayer
It’s morning, Jesus.  It’s morning, and here’s that light and sound all over again.
I’ve got to move fast . . . get into the bathroom, wash up, grab a bite to eat and run some more.
I just don’t feel like it, Lord.  What I really want to do is get back into bed, pull up the covers, and sleep.  All I seem to want today is the big sleep, and here I’ve got to run all over again.
Where am I running?  You know these things I can’t understand.  It’s not that I need to have you tell me.  What counts most is just that somebody knows, and it’s you.  That helps a lot.
So I’ll follow along okay?  But lead, Lord.  Now I’ve got to run.  Are you running with me, Jesus?
By the title of this blog I want to suggest that we could insert anything into the blank and ask an appropriate question.  Are you crying with me, Jesus?  Are you tempted with me, Jesus?  Are you bored with me, Jesus?

When I first read these words many years ago, I thought the question a rhetorical one.  Of course, the answer is "yes."  I still believe that, but I also believe what I think Malcolm was also trying say.  The answer may very well be always "yes," but that does not mean it is obvious.

I know from reading Malcolm and hearing him speak and talking with him on one occasion, that he has a relationship with Jesus that can rarely be shaken. But he never talked about this relationship--or lived it, for that matter, it is my impression--in facile ways.  He knew in his own life what most people of faith know if they've gotten very far on the journey, that being sure of Jesus' presence was being sure of the presence of mystery, at the very least the presence of an equal partner, unwilling to be controlled as any of us are.  Jesus is a partner who can be deeply compassionate and intensely challenging at the same time, and rarely answers a simple question with a simple answer.  Jesus knows that there are no simple questions, and, therefore, no simple answers.  This is one of the things that becomes very clear as you read any of the Gospels.

It is very easy to give up on a God who is even more complex than the average person.  But I think it is even easier to give up on a God who must be understood by everyone the same, experienced like everyone else, having set the world in eternal order.  You do not have to live long to discover that the world is anything but ordered, and not just because our bad choices cause the disorder.  The disorder is endemic to divine creation and divine being at least as much as it is endemic to human living and being.

The heart of Malcolm's Morning Prayer was not actually the question at the end.  It is the statement a bit before that.  In my own paraphrase, "You know everything, even the many things about my life.  And it is not like I suspect, or even want, you to figure it all out for me.  What counts most is just that somebody knows, and its you."

Jesus is the one who knows everything about us and runs with us still.

Here's a good Malcolm quote to end with:

"However one might pray - in any verbal way or completely without words - is unimportant to God. What matters is the heart's intent."
Read more at brainy quote.

P.S. It was fun to learn that Malcolm was a fellow native Western New Yorker.  I never knew (or have long forgotten)
that he had been born in Buffalo, NY.

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