Day 28: God Loving Us to Wholeness

Lent Day 28: God Loving Us to Wholeness

Today’s Readings

Twenty men on retreat, each with a unique experience of recovery, share their sacred stories. They begin with litanies of struggle—years in addiction, crimes and sentences, broken relationships, and paths through homelessness. They also share counter-narratives of joy—recovery measured in months, work promotions and educational achievements, reunions with loved ones, and pride in their newly acquired housing.

During tears, laughter, confessions, and joy in these stories, I find my attention drawn to a man I will call “Jerry.” Jerry reveals the crimes which led to his two stretches of incarceration: money laundering and armed robbery, auto theft and assault, along with general “drugging and dealing.” Jerry shares the conditions that surely led to his transgressions: 26 years of heroin addiction; being a victim of unimaginable trauma as a child, including sexual abuse and witnessing double homicide as a teenager; and more than a decade of homelessness. Afterwards, struggling to hold back tears, Jerry simply whispers, “I don’t know how God can forgive me for what I’ve done.”

I am dumbstruck, not with the gravity of Jerry’s missteps, but with the disbelief that anyone, especially this magnetic Jerry I am getting to know, would hesitate to trust God’s love and mercy. Yes, all of those experiences would lead anyone to a place of doubt. But Jerry’s own counter-narrative illustrates how God wants to love him into perfection—reunited with his estranged daughter as he graduates from his rehab program, three strong years of addiction recovery, being a sponsor to others, and hired by the very shelter that helped him in the past as a part-time support to others living on the street. God entered Jerry’s life in the midst of chaos and now walks with him on a path of mercy and healing. I want Jerry to know that God forgave him, and me as well, long before our missteps.

Just as the sick man at Bethesda in today’s Gospel had longed for and been prevented from the healing waters for nearly a lifetime, Jerry waited for years for a path to healing, with many things blocking his way. Like the sick man encountering Jesus, Jerry met caring people and the God of his understanding, revealing a path to healing. And Jerry will still meet so-called “better people” who will judge and protest that his recovery doesn’t follow the prescribed course, as if he were “carrying his mat on the Sabbath.” But I trust that both Jerry and I will be able to ignore those voices as we come to know more deeply how the Creator loves us closer to wholeness.

For Reflection: 

  • How do I respond when others block my journey toward healing? In what ways do I stand in the way of those striving for wholeness, or how do I offer help to others on their path toward the healing waters they need?
  • When I reflect on the scope of my own life experience and struggles, what helps me recognize God’s mercy working tirelessly for and with me?
  • How has the God of my understanding drawn me out of chaos and closer to healing?


5 replies
  1. Janet
    Janet says:

    I so appreciate hearing stories like these. I’m comforted that programs, circles, encounters are available for people with such traumatic pasts to have a safe space to tell their stories. And that in these spaces they have an opportunity to experience God’s healing mercy through merciful, compassionate people. May God continue to bless these people and organizations that host these retreats, programs, encounters.

  2. Dave
    Dave says:

    That phrase “God of my understanding” so resonates with me! Wow, I will be sitting with that. I cannot say how I know, even in my awfulness, that God loves & forgives me/us. But it is true, even when we can’t understand it.

  3. Mary
    Mary says:

    Agree with Janet. May God continue to bless your ministry, Jim.

    In my own life, the God of my understanding is loving and forgiving. I do not feel judged or shamed. Although it is hard to do at times, it’s a reminder to be less judgmental and shaming of others. Love them as God loves us.

  4. sonja
    sonja says:

    We can always sow seeds of hope. It does not matter who waters the seed, or when it germinates. We each play an important part in God’s Kingdom.


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