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It snowed Friday night, and it felt like the first snowfall of winter, again. We practically forgot what season it was here in the Chicago area, with days hovering near 60 degrees and sunny — 70 this coming week!

To be honest, I feel torn between the joy of basking in bright sun and the sadness of the sense that Mother Earth is not happy with us.

What are you torn between?

When elders move into senior homes, they may be torn between the grief and the relief of downsizing. When teenagers search for the next step after high school, they may be torn between freedom and terror. When people pray for healing, they may be torn between hope and surrender. 

Our experience of feeling torn often comes when we are “on the way” from one place to another, one season of life to another, one understanding of the world to another. 

In the gospel according to Mark, the disciples are described as “on the way” with Jesus, and they regularly feel torn. . .torn between awe and fear, torn between clarity and confusion, torn between old and new.

Along the way, Mark recalls Jesus healing a blind man in stages. Jesus touches his eyes, and the first time the man opens them, he sees blurry, moving trees. How disorienting. Is there more? Am I stuck here? Can I go back? Experiencing this middle stage on the way to who knows where can paralyze us.

Usually, we can’t go back. We can’t undo what we’ve done. We can’t rewind time. We can’t unsee what we’ve begun to partially see. And neither can we jump ahead, as James and John try to do when they say, yeah, we’re here for the hardship, but could you just promise us that we’ll be on your right and left in glory? If everything works out in the end, we can just go numb until we get there, right? 

Might one of Lent’s mercies be to help us grow familiar with what it’s like to be “on the way”? Instead of resisting that sense of feeling torn and agonizing to resolve it, might we have some compassion for it? The tension is natural — transitions are hard. What if we just let it be for a moment and breathe? Could we notice where we feel the pull to go back and the pull to go forward at the same time — where our muscles contract in this metaphorical middle, adding to our desperation to get “off the way”? 

In that two-stage healing story, the second attempt clears the blind man’s vision fully. The moving trees sharpen into the outlines of people, and he sees – sees himself, sees them, sees Jesus.

As we travel through these “messy middles”, we too begin to see more clearly, not because we squint or try harder, but because we’re building capacity to stay present – to be with all that is here with us — suffering, joy, uncertainty, hope – just as it was with Jesus. Feeling torn becomes a cue not to panic but to participate in the unfolding of a new reality, right here, “on the way” with Jesus.

Julie VanDerVeen Van Til

Julie VanDerVeen Van Til is the pastor of Flossmoor Community Church in Flossmoor, Illinois. She and her family enjoy music, theater, books and travel. They especially enjoy exploring National Parks, interactive museums, and anyplace with water in the summertime. .


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