It was a Thursday. A Thursday not unlike this Thursday. A regular day. I did normal things. Woke up. Had a shower. Brushed my teeth. Ate breakfast. I expect that on that anything but regular Thursday, Jesus did, too.
It’s funny how the events right before and right after a life-changing moment get etched into your memory. You remember every detail. What you were wearing. What he said. What kind of day it was.
Perhaps that’s why we have so much detail of the last week of the life of Jesus. There are years and years of missing dialogue, vague references to getting “lost” during a visit to the Temple, nothing about his relationship with Joseph, or what it was like in his teen years (wouldn’t every parent struggling to love a teen have been helped by that?). But that week, we have almost every movement, every word that he said. Even his emotions seem to jump off the page. His silence speaks louder than anything else at the end.
I’m not a Biblical scholar, but perhaps that’s why we have such a clear picture of those last days, the days before everything changed—at first, the disciples believed, for the worse. Then, to their shock, to the better. Oh, so much better.
That Thursday, it must have been so thick, the betrayal. Cutting to the heart of each of the disciples there. Cutting his heart, and setting things in motion.
I remember my Maundy Thursday clearly. I remember calling my husband, leaving him a message as I drove to the office. I remember what shirt I was wearing, how warm it was outside. I don’t see my story in any way as the same as His—I don’t style myself as anyone’s savior or messiah. But on that Maundy Thursday, I was betrayed, too.
For me, it wasn’t a kiss. It was a tear. Writing that word, I can see that you’ll read it first as if it was weeping, but it wasn’t. It was a ripping.
One year ago, my heart betrayed me. On a Thursday, like any other Thursday, an artery in my heart tore, and I had a heart attack. Life as I knew it changed. My relationship to myself, my body, my God, they all shifted.
I would like to say that I saw His hand, His sovereignty, His goodness right away. That I knew without a doubt that He had saved my life. But I didn’t. I was profoundly grateful that I was alive, profoundly grateful that He kept my heart beating, profoundly grateful to keep living and loving and knowing Him this side of eternity. But I wrestled. I struggled.
There was no reason for my heart attack, the doctor’s said. No high blood pressure, no high cholesterol, no blockages in any arteries. I was young, fit, healthy. It was like being “struck by lightning,” they said. It was random, they said. Your body betrayed you.
It’s been a messy journey for me up to this day, this Maundy Thursday. I’ve railed at God, wept with God, been held by God and completely ignored God. My body has been host not only to a myriad of new chemicals, but also of new emotions—I’ve hated my body in ways that I never did before, seen it as foreign, felt ambivalent and unsure. I listen to my body in new ways now; for the first few months, I would lay in bed just listening to my heart beating. I was surprised it didn’t wake my husband up.
In the past few months, working on the current issue of Conversations, I’ve thought about the intersection of my spirituality and my body—your spirituality and your body—a lot. I hope that you’ve had the chance to read some of the amazing and important articles in the current issue. Reading them over and over again as we prepared to go to print changed something in me, as I know it will change something in you.
Maundy Thursday is so very physical. This is my body, broken for you. Take, eat. Whenever you drink this. Jesus washed his disciples feet, he sweat blood, he was betrayed by a kiss.
This Maundy Thursday, because of what God has been doing, because it’s an evening of betrayal and Jesus understands betrayal, because I don’t really know what else to do, I will take this year of struggle and rage and confusion and wonder, and give it back to God.
This is my body, broken for you.
Is there something that you’ve been struggling with that you might hand over to God this Maundy Thursday? A betrayal? A confusion? A fear?
What is it like to feel, like Tara feels, ambivalent toward your body? How does this make an impact on how you experience this very physical day in Holy Week?
Tara M. Owens is the senior editor of Conversations Journal. A certified spiritual director with Anam Cara Ministries (www.anamcara.com), she practices in Colorado and around the world. She is profoundly grateful to do ministry and life with her husband and best friend, Bryan. She is working on an upcoming book from InterVarsity Press on spirituality and the body. If you’d like to continue the conversation with Tara, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follower her on Twitter at t_owens.