A Lectio Divina Meditation by Rosemary Feerick 

What do you pack in a go bag?

Do you know what a go bag is? Do you live someplace where you have to know?

That is what I was thinking about when Steven read the story of the rich man in Mark 10: 17-31 during last weekend’s Be Present with Wisdom & Money leadership team retreat.  It’s a familiar story, the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  I have heard it and prayed with it many, many times.   But this week, I heard something new:

He went away sad because he had many possessions.

As soon as I heard that line, my memory flashed to the call I received from my friend David last month.  David lives in a redwood forest and had just received a wildfire evacuation order.  He wanted to know if he could shelter at my home.  “Of course,” I said.

David’s evacuation order was the kind that allowed a few hours to think about what to bring and what to leave – as much as one can in a state of shock.  When he showed up at my home, David’s tiny car was packed with old suitcases.   Boxes were piled on the car roof, tied down with neckties and bathrobe belts.   Sam, David’s dog, was seated in the passenger seat, eyes wide.  David was clearly shaken.

“What did you take?” I asked, looking at his car.

“I have no idea,” he replied.

He went away sad because he had many possessions.  

I used to hear that line as Jesus’ judgment of the rich.   In the Gospel narrative, disciples are supposed to be ready to drop fishing nets or water jugs when Jesus passes by.  The fact that the rich man walked away sad was a sign that he was “lacking in one thing.”  Right?

That’s not what I am hearing now.  In wildfire season, what I know is that it is heartbreaking to have to decide what to take and what to leave when the text reads “evacuate now.”  Or when the text reads, “Go, sell all that you have, and come follow me.”

Sure, we all know that life is not about stuff and that in the end we leave everything.  But leaving behind the treasures of your home is hard.  That line in the Gospel – maybe it’s not a judgment.  Maybe it’s just true.

The rich man came to Jesus inquiring about eternal life.  Maybe he was asking about heaven, though I’m not sure the Jews of that time focused much on life after death.  I think he might have been asking Jesus something else.  How do you live in a way that is full of life, grounded in Spirit, that is, in short, alive?   What do you have to do to have that kind of life?

Having lived with fires close by for the past several weeks, I am asking Jesus that question too.  You see, I have been teetering on despair this month, my inner resilience deeply strained by wave after wave of crisis.  “Jesus,” I want to know, “What do you have to do if you want to stay spiritually alive in a context such as this one that we are living in?”

Jesus looked at the man and loved him.

Jesus embodied a reality of Spirit that was outside of the distress of his time.  He was no stranger to oppressive political realities and economic injustice.   And yet there he is grounded in something else – love.  Jesus looked at the man and loved him.

As I turn toward that gaze, I hear Springsteen’s voice in my mind, “Darling if you’re weary lay your head upon my chest…Meet me in the land of hope and dreams.”  The voice sings faintly at first but then louder.  It reminds me that the other side of  “the black river of loss…is salvation,” as Mary Oliver says. I know this mystery; it’s at the heart of my faith.   I hear the voice of love inviting me to keep opening past grief into a reality that is full of life. “Meet me in the land of hope and dreams.”

Living under smoke filled skies, it is sometimes hard for me to keep believing in that land of hope and dreams.  When I look at what is happening in our world and to the earth, I weep.  I know this grief is not the full story, but after 30 straight days of smoke-filled air, this is where I am.  Springsteen, meanwhile, continues to sing in my mind, coaching me, “Open up your heart.  We gotta keep the light burning.”

Steven rings the bell signaling the end of the meditation.

I open my eyes and there on my computer screen are the faces of friends from Wisdom & Money and Be Present.

This is how I stay.


Works Cited

Oliver, Mary.  “In Blackwater Woods.” American Primitive, Back Bay Books, 1983.

Springsteen, Bruce (2001).  Land of Hope and Dreams. On Live in New York City. New York, NY: Columbia Records.

Springsteen, Bruce (2014).  Dream Baby Dream.  On High Hopes. New York, NY: Columbia Records.

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