Sometimes I write on Fridays, thus, I have several posts entitled, A Friday Reflection. More than any other day, Fridays are reflective days for me. With that said, I don’t claim that I do my best writing on Fridays:), just that the way my Fridays are structured, they are very important to my spiritual and contemplative life. This Friday, I want to share how my Friday routine that is structured around being with Jesus and striving to be like Jesus led to my experience of doing Jesus’ kingdom ministry. I want to share that as we journey with Jesus, he will work through us to minister to the hearts and lives of people.
I follow an ancient tradition of viewing every weekend as a “mini” Easter weekend. Basically, this is a practice that weekly reflects on the Friday through Sunday events of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Each day has a specific focus and related spiritual discipline. For example, Fridays are focused on Jesus as the suffering servant on the cross, and the related spiritual discipline is fasting. Saturdays are focused on the mysteries of the Friday events and the profound silence of the grave. The related spiritual discipline is spending time in silence and solitude while contemplating and learning. Sundays are focused on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and the related spiritual discipline is gathering with others in celebration. This is a summary of the tradition; much more could be said. I simply want to set the background for my Fridays.
I begin my Fridays spending time with Jesus. I set my gaze upon him and reflect on his life and ministry. I read Philippians 2:5-11 and begin to focus my day and life on following his example. I pray cross centered prayers from the Book of Common Prayer (ACNA 2019)
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name. Amen.
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Throughout the day, I fast from food. There are many aspects to fasting and people have written lengthy books on the topic, so again there is much that could be said here. I fast to experience some minor physical suffering while reflecting on Jesus’ physical suffering on the cross. I fast to experience the pains of hunger so that during the hunger pains I may focus on hungering and thirsting for God and his righteousness. I fast to devote my body to God and depend on his life-giving sustenance. I fast to discipline my physical urges. I fast to stand in solidarity and pray for people who are starving throughout the world. I fast to give up something in order to make room for God to work in my life and to make room for joy as a result of God’s work. I fast because Jesus fasted, and he explained to his disciples that with prayer and fasting comes power to confront evil (Matt 17:14-21).
My Fridays are also marked by labyrinth walks. A labyrinth is an elaborately designed meditative or prayer path. I walk the path with God towards the center releasing to God all my concerns, fears, trials, desires and sins. I arrive at the center and focus on receiving God and receiving his blessings. I reflect on his provisions with gratefulness and thanksgiving. I listen for anything that God might want to say or show me. Then, I re-walk the path with God with renewal, restoration and rejoicing. I focus on re-entering my Christian life with all that I have received and experienced at the center. I re-imagine my life lived with God. It is at the labyrinth where on this Friday, my Friday structure intertwined with a ministry experience.
When I arrived to walk the labyrinth, there was a young man in the distance sitting with his back towards the labyrinth. Typically, I am the only person in this secluded area, so him being there was a unique situation. I began my walk and a few minutes into my practice, the young man’s parents arrived which immediately started a heated argument. I kept walking. They were having a conflict about the young man’s drug abuse that has been going on for years. He had been to treatment several times and his parents were demanding that he admit himself to a treatment program today. I kept walking and started praying for this family. There was a fast approaching time deadline for the young man to enter the prearranged treatment program. The family was in a power struggle. They argued back and forth in a circular pattern.
I have a history of working with youth and families in crisis, so the longer the conflict went on, I started praying and thinking about intervening. I kept walking and started to sense that maybe this was a divine appointment for God to use me in this family conflict. I don’t typically interject myself into this type of scenario, and I considered minding my own business and just leaving after my labyrinth walk. However, I sensed that God was giving me the words to introduce myself to the family and giving me a strategic approach if they were willing to let me sit with them for a while. I felt I had to be obedient to God and trust that he might be up to something in this situation. The setting, timing and issue along with my sense of preparation was extraordinary.
I stepped out in faith and obedience, and the family allowed me to speak and listen to them. The young man was attentive, and we had a productive conversation. I could tell that he was challenged, and that he was reflecting on the things we were discussing. I was not going to solve all the family’s issues, but I was a different voice and perspective to change the dynamic of the interaction. The family still had work to do, and they still had to figure out the treatment program option and timeline. I encouraged the family and departed, trusting that God would somehow use my intervention to help the young man and his parents.
This was not a typical Friday. After reflecting on the day, I am amazed how everything works together. I believe that God used the structure of my Friday to prepare my heart and my mind to minister to this family. God leading me to focus on Jesus and on his example enabled me serve and support this family. God leading me in the spiritual discipline of fasting enabled me to be more dependent on him and to confront the undergirding evil that has gripped this young man. God leading me to practice walking with him enabled me to help this family with their journey.
This is a Friday reflection because it’s a unique Friday, but this type of scenario can happen on any day. May we remember that God is always at work and that he will use every aspect of our lives to work all things together for his good purposes.