In this new Lenten devotional, popular progressive Christian author John Pavlovitz once again takes us on a transformative spiritual journey. Like the human experience, the spiritual journey is not a level path. It is about the falling and the rising. We allow our hopes to rise when we are in the middle of the struggle. We wait for the sun to rise, knowing that joy comes in the morning. We rise to our feet after falling to our knees in desperate prayer. We rise when we are knocked from our feet, persistent in this. We rise to meet the coming day, knowing we are held by a Love that will have the last word. Rise is a 40-day journey of elevated hopes and ascending spirits. Each entry includes scripture, a reflection, and a prayer
I was recently watching the movie Batman Begins (for roughly the 83rd time). One of my favorite scenes shows a battered Bruce Wayne surrounded by the burning rubble of the family estate he inherited after his parent’s death. He is the keeper of their legacy, the steward of the family name, the carrier of their memory—and he feels as though he has failed to do all of these things. His longtime butler and father-figure Alfred, repeats words to Bruce that Bruce’s father often used to share with him as a child, in moments of discouragement in order to steady him.
He says, “Why do we fall, Bruce?”
Bruce’s father’s reply still echoes in his head, “So we can get back up.”
This is a wonderful moment in the film but I’m not sure it’s great theology: the idea that pain has a purpose. I don’t believe our suffering is a premeditated test that forces us to find meaning, but I believe that pain is a present opportunity to choose: a sacred space where we get to decide who we will be and what we will believe and how we will respond. As people of faith, we get up when we fall because we are a people of hope, we accept the descent as the invitation to rise again. The spiritual journey, like the human experience—is not a level, linear path where pitfalls are uniform and where growth is predictable and the progress comfortable. It is a messy, meandering awkward path of stops and starts. It is made of both the falling and the getting back up—and the former is often far easier than the latter.
Rising is inherent in our religious tradition:
We allow our spirits to rise in the middle of the storms.
We wait for the sun to rise, trusting that a joyful morning will follow a night of mourning.
We rise to our feet after falling to our knees in desperate prayer, assured that we are not alone in the struggle.
We rise in resilience when people and circumstances knock the wind from us.
We rise to meet the coming day, knowing we are held by a Love that endures through the blackest darkness.
We rise on the promise that death is not the final word.
Lent is not an event, not only a single glorious moment. As much as one dawn arriving, it is about all the many not-yets, one-day-soons, and still-to-comes of this life in the waiting: about the painful in-between times that we’d like to fast-forward through on our way to peace and growth and clarity. That seems to be where the bulk of the rising happens. Maybe that’s a good way to think of our time together here in these pages: in the valley places but with our eyes still looking up.
This is a season ultimately made of elevated hopes, raised expectations, ascending spirits, and radiant mornings and we should never forget that. It is love helping us get back up. But before all of that, it is a road that travels through the darkness, through the waiting, through grief, and through the nights where hope feels beyond reach. Those are sacred spaces too, even if they are less pleasant. Consider these pages a journey to something and a journey through something. As keepers of a legacy and stewards of a family name and carriers of a memory, we can be encouraged that when we are presently falling, that the rise is never far away.