So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, the person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. – Numbers 21:9 (NRSV)
Sometimes we go to great lengths to avoid actually looking at what is causing pain, even death, in our own lives and communities.
Why? Is it because if we look at the problem head-on, chances are good that we will have to deal with it?
On their wilderness journey, the Hebrew people complained long and loud about their situation. They accused Moses of bringing them out of slavery in Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Their lack of faith led to an invasion of poisonous snakes.
Moses received a strange instruction from God. “Make a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole. If people are bitten, they are to look at the bronze serpent and they will be healed.”
They were to look at the source of the pain and death.
Lent is a good time to come clean about the things that are the real sources of pain and death in our lives and relationships, and to ask God’s help to be delivered from them. Grudges we carry and refuse to release, addictions we don’t admit, anger we’ve allowed to eat away at us, sin we have failed to own. We may point to, even treat, the symptoms—fatigue, irritability, deadness in relationships—but avoid looking at the source of the pain.
But when we look directly at the source of pain in our lives and take responsibility for action, a wondrous thing can happen. That source of pain may become a source of healing.
This Lent, help me to look to the cross of Christ, sign of death and sign of life. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book, Useful Wisdom: Letter to Young (and Not So Young) Ministers will be published early next year by Wipf and Stock. You can read and sign up for his blog at www.anthonybrobinson.com.