Several years ago, I was working on a self-reflection project. One of the reflections I was working through suggested that I ask family members and close friends to answer a few questions. So, I chanced it and asked each member of my family to share with me their thoughts and each family member did send me their answers. My youngest brother wrote on the top of his response: You want the truth. You can’t handle the truth.
I think of his response every year during Holy Week (maybe even more so this year). On Good Friday we hear the Passion from the Gospel of John (18.1-19.42). The interchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate is what makes me think of how my brother began his response to me all those years ago.
Pilate: So you are a king?
Jesus: You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.
Pilate: What is truth?
After he had said this, Pilate went out to the Jews. (John 18.37-38)
What is truth?
I do want the truth, but as my brother said maybe I can’t handle it.
What is truth?
A question we have all been asking ourselves over the last few weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rattle us and our realities.
The truth is this pandemic is not punishment from God.
The truth is the mercy and love of God is being seen in hundreds of places every day.
The truth is couples are being married and babies are being born the world over.
The truth is communities and churches are finding ways to be together even when public distancing is the norm.
The truth is many people each day are ensuring safety, care, food, water and power make it to where it needs to be.
There are other truths as well.
The truth is that along with this pandemic there is still other diseases/illnesses and war.
The truth is that homelessness and hunger still exist.
The truth is that migrants and refugees are still seeking shelter.
The truth is violence and addictions are still part of everyday life.
The truth is loneliness and racism are still not immune during a pandemic.
These are hard truths to face. We don’t want to face these truths, much like how Pilate didn’t want to face the truth of who Jesus was. It’s much easier to face the first list of truths however the truths of our hurting world are still part of our reality and still need us to respond with the truth of justice, mercy and love.
When we face our own truths, we come to see that truth can reveal to us our strengths and weaknesses, and lead us to the way, the truth and the life we are meant to know. In facing our own truths, we can then face the truths that are the hurts of our world, our communities, our churches and our families. It is not easy to do.
With many of us in self-isolation or forced away from social schedules we are feeling uncomfortable with what is rising up in us. Truths about our actions, our lack of response, our broken promises, our unfinished projects and the way we treat others surfaces more quickly. It’s harder to hide those truths when we can only hide them in a few social media posts and yet let the world into our lives because we post from our kitchen table or bathroom. It is uncomfortable, isn’t it? It is challenging, isn’t it? It is frustrating, isn’t it?
There is a part of me (and I’m sure many of us) that wishes the whole thing would just curve and flatten and disappear by the end of the week. We could just wake up and return to our lives, to our “truths” that we are comfortable with everyone seeing. The reality is this is not going to happen.
Which leaves us with the question: What is truth?
Can we handle the truth? About ourselves? Our choices?
About what we need to do now and post pandemic?
What is truth for us this Holy Week?
What truths do we need to face this Holy Week?
What is stirring in us this Holy Week?
What is the truth of the cross for us?
Are we able to confidently say with the crucified Jesus
“Into your hands I commend my spirit?”
Knowing we will rise up to new life, knowing that we will face more truths and be called to respond to more than shortages of toilet paper and frustrations of self-isolation, knowing we are to respond in truth which is love and mercy and ultimately freedom. This truth serum is a lot, isn’t it?
I don’t have answers. I don’t even know if this makes sense anymore.
What I do know is that the truths I am facing and are challenging me are at least making me more aware, which in all honesty can be draining. What I do know is that every day is a gift (yes that sounds cliché but it seems to have deeper meaning) and although the news can be painful to watch and the updates devastating, I know I am not alone. What I do know is that each day something brings me joy and causes my heart to be thankful maybe even more so now. What I do know is that hope is always a part of each day and who I am. What I do know is that prayer (as rough as it may be some days) is my companion and it is the least I can do for our hurting world. What I do know is that I am being faced with changes I need to make and the truth of that can be terrifying. What I do know is the truth is hard to handle and right now I am okay with that.
As we enter into this Holy Week let us listen to the voice of Truth:
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage.” – Psalm 31