Day 8: When We Suffer, Jesus Suffers

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}

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It is certainly true that in all of us, in our individual suffering, Christ is present and near. I’ve learned that throughout my life and in my Christian faith. I’ve known it to be true in my own circumstances. For instance, when my father left when I was nine, I felt the closeness of God near me constantly. Where people seemed to disappear and fail me, the presence of someone who saw me didn’t.

But as people, we begin to do something dangerous with this idea of the suffering of Christ. We begin to say that Jesus suffers with our particular group alone, that he is only for us, that God only sees us. Today in America, there’s a group of people who yell in the streets, “White lives matter!” because they see themselves as a people suffering, a people that the suffering of Jesus identifies with while overlooking the suffering of people of color around them.

There is no doubt that every person who shouts something like this from the streets is indeed soul-suffering, but when we begin to nationalize our suffering and claim God’s love over our particular group, especially a group that holds the power, we miss something.

The suffering of Jesus came upon him because he stood up against the powers of the day. And so those who have also, throughout time, been oppressed under the hand of power, know what it means to suffer in the way of Christ’s suffering.

The Israelites knew.

Those enslaved knew.

Indigenous peoples knew.

Because Jesus invites us into his suffering, and because we invite him into our own, that means we should regularly invite each other into our own suffering– and we do it in community.

Which means that we fight against the lie of individualism. We fight against the hand of power. And we make sure that those who live under constant reigns of oppression know that they are seen and heard, and that there are some in the world who value every bit of their lives because the suffering of Jesus calls all of us to it.

And when it comes to indigenous peoples, the church has actually been so complicit over time in that suffering– boarding schools, forced assimilation, forced “salvation,” and loss of culture has been done in the name of Jesus.

In those moments, I believe the suffering of the actual Christ, who is not enslaved by the institutions that represent something so wrong, came closer and closer to those suffering with his own suffering.

And at some point in the suffering process, through it and after it comes the healing. And there, Christ is present, too. Everyday that I teach my children our Potawatomi language, everyday that I remind someone that we’re still here, that our culture is still alive, I am healing. We are healing.

And when we heal, the church heals, and the world heals.

So because we suffer with Christ, we also heal with Christ.

Hallelujah for that.

 

 

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