Day 22: Sacred Frustration

BY ANNA RYAN-BENDER | March 23, 2022
Today’s Readings

How many laws do you wish we would abolish in our church and our country? My list is long.

Sacred Frustration

[Art by Becky McIntyre, used with permission. Visit the artist’s site or check out additional work on Instagram: @sanaartista]

I work with a passionate student who aspires to a career in public health whose future is unjustly held hostage by our broken immigration system. I seethe with frustration for her and for all those who face an unknown future because of arbitrary borders.I live in a city scarred by racism and segregation. I boil over with frustration—at systemic violence and at myself for how ingrained white supremacy is in my bones—as I grapple with unlearning and moving forward.I minister in a church that verbally affirms the dignity of all people, have a degree that qualifies me to preach and lead, and yet am prevented (in many places) from doing either. This frustration exhausts and depletes me as I long for something more. 

Too often laws constrain, degrade, do violence. Don’t we want to burn it down and start over? How could Jesus fulfill anything so broken?

In our Gospel today, Jesus flips his listeners’ understanding of following laws on its head by challenging them to move beyond rigid observance of private faith toward sacred embodiment of messy life together. He undermines the idea that God’s Kin-dom is about celebration of individual prosperity and personal holiness. He reverses our conception of what it means to be ‘blessed’—not attributes to be obtained, but God’s preferential care for those cast aside.

Lent is a profession of faith through action—faith in a God who accompanies us into the depths of our frustration and despair just as God accompanied Jesus in his. May God turn our exhaustion into sacred frustration that sustains our work to move beyond unjust laws toward a church and world where all can flourish.

For Reflection:

  • How can your exhaustion be transformed into sacred frustration during this Lenten season?
  • In what ways can your frustration enliven your work to build “church and world where all can flourish?”

9 replies
  1. Richard Roos
    Richard Roos says:

    “Don’t we want to burn it down and start over? How could Jesus fulfill anything so broken?”
    No, I don’t want to do the violence of burning it down and starting over. “How could Jesus fulfill anything so broken?” Yet the Lord was born and suffered and died for our sake and salvation…to redeem our brokenness brought on by (Original) Sin. As a Hospice Chaplain, I would hear the stories (Life-Review) of so many people…and try to underscore the “good” that I would hear…believing that, as in Genesis 1, “the Lord saw not only what He had made and saw that it was good”…but also sees the good in peoples’ lives…and forgives the rest. Yes, there are weeds in the fields of our lives and world…but the Lord did not say to pull out the weeds and endanger the wheat at the same time…but that in the end, justice will be served…justice you are serving to effect even now (realized eschatology). “Don’t we want to burn it down and start over? No. And destroy the “wheat” at the same time? How could Jesus fulfill anything so broken?” He has…and is…

    Reply
  2. Mary Franceschini
    Mary Franceschini says:

    We must never stop believing that Jesus is in the middle of the messiness of all the wrongs. He stands beside all who fight the good fight.

    Reply
  3. Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    Turning exhaustion into sacred frustration is not an easy task but one can think about the Ignatian exercise of detachment. I detach myself from the frustration and ask the Holy Spirit to redirect it into sacred frustration so that I can treat the issue with newness. It is a sense that the Spirit is refocusing the lens and asking us to create anew. It works well both individually with each person, helping them to see how they can ‘adjust the lens”. It works well with projects as we ask each other our purpose and how we want to figure out how the kingdom of God should invest/behave at this time It is amazing to me how the Holy Spirit works within the group to create the newness and life we need to provide the group with a mission for the Holy Spirit to continue to support and love..

    Reply
    • Dawn
      Dawn says:

      I hear what you are saying about detachment. I struggle with detaching from frustration. I have life and comfort and empathy and no way to apply it to those I think are in need.
      I’m learning to”bloom where I am planted” as much as possible, seeing family and neighbors with new eyes….. And smiling more at them and myself, even when frustrated!

      Reply
  4. sonja
    sonja says:

    It was a sad day indeed when our government (New Zealand) used violence against her own people.
    People were protesting peacefully in prayer and song against an unjust law that denied our people a basic human right to have the freedom to keep themselves in good health. Innocent people were injured. Personal property was damaged beyond repair. Yet I can still focus on the good in society. The police who were standing on a street corner with their dogs to honour a colleague who had died. To have a conversation in the street with an unmasked person is a rare opportunity these days. (The NZ police are now exempt from government mandates, having successfully overturned the mandate imposed on them by the government in court.)

    Reply
  5. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Profound reflection. Thanks. Long live truth. Thus wrote Mahatma Gandhi: “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.”

    Reply
  6. Dr. Sue Sack
    Dr. Sue Sack says:

    I too am a woman who has the credentials to preach and lead in my church, but is legalistically blocked from doing so. I have in turn pivoted and attempted to find new ways of reaching out to the people around me who wither on the vine, yet yearn for spiritual food. Yet, I often find myself struggling to keep going, emotionally and financially. I weep over Jerusalem. I wonder if what I do really matters. This is especially true when even now, while on the outskirts, I am opposed, derided, and ignored for my attempts. This path may indeed be the way of Jesus, but it is definitely not an easy one, particularly in a culture that lifts up the successful, the competitive, the aggressors. Frustration can too quickly spill over into despair. I very much appreciated your thoughts on this today. They helped!

    Reply

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