One wild and precious life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, The Summer Day


Photography by S.K.Dutt

In Mark 8 Jesus told his disciples clearly he must suffer and be rejected, that he would die and rise again. Peter took Jesus aside to correct remonstrate with him and was severely rebuked. Jesus then told the crowd and the disciples to come closer, and he said: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What could you give to get back your soul? (Mark 8:31 -37)

I had lunch with a friend recently who had just come through the traumatic experience of the turbulent birth of their first child. Both wife and baby have recovered well. He told me that he had gone downstairs to visit his neighbour, an elderly woman, who had cancer and was going to have to move to a hospice. She wanted to see a baby. He was stunned by the stark involuntary feeling that one human was coming in, another was going out. On one hand, a door was opening and on the other a door was closing.

I guess it was the two that are often separated in the flesh, baby from aged, being brought together at the extreme edges of life that had such an impact. This joining, this hand holding, this beginning, this ending. In Holy Week we watch mortified (if we do not skip too quickly into resurrection mode) at Jesus facing his last few hours - he was going to die, and horribly so. Prior to this his clear statement of belief had caused a reaction in Peter who took him aside presumably to chide him for being a downer (keep up the spirit of the troops, sir) . Surely this is our own instinct - to ward off and turn away from the thought of suffering. Jesus’ angry response, “Satan, get away from me! You are thinking like everyone else and not like God.” indicates this is a sensitive, core matter for him. Does his mind go back to his desert temptations? He asks the penetrating question that may haunt us, “What script am I running to, what tune do I follow?” His script read love and suffering. What is mine? It’s been written that life is a 1000 joys and 1000 sorrows and they can’t be separated. “We shake with joy, we shake with grief. What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body,” writes Mary Oliver (Evidence). Life is gift.