Bucket List Surprises

I just checked it off my bucket list – Machu Picchu that is. And how much I learned! This 15th-century Incan citadel is located in the Andean mountains of Peru. Built of carefully constructed stones with no mortar, it has withstood centuries of earthquakes and outlasted many stone structures built after it.

The engineering genius of its construction melded with the precision-like placement of its buildings, aligned with the sun at the Winter Solstice, is inspiring. Its location, nestled among and surrounded by 9,000 foot high Andean mountains, is breathtaking.

There is a deep spirituality to this place in which numerous gods and goddesses were worshipped. There’s the God of the Sun, Inca Sapa; Goddess of the Moon, Mama Quilla; and my favorite, Pachamama, Goddess of the Earth.

ViracochaIn addition, displayed prominently throughout Peru is the God Viracocha, creator of the earth, the sky, the other gods, and humans. He is depicted as a fierce warrior, frightening to behold, with weapons raised in each hand. His intent is to scare, to frighten, to protect one from harm. And he is displayed everywhere, in every market, shop, restaurant, and hotel.

Mingled within this Incan culture are soaring Roman Catholic cathedrals built by the Spaniards who conquered the Incas in 1532, filled with elaborate, baroque depictions of Jesus, Mary, the saints, and more. In the entrance of one hangs a painting of the crucified Christ, bleeding, writhing on the cross and to my surprise upon seeing it, I suddenly burst into tears.

I’m not one who is drawn to ‘bleeding Jesus crucifixes’. Yet, here I was literally moved to tears. Why? Upon reflection, I think it was the pure vulnerability of the One I call my Savior. Here was no depiction of power. Quite the opposite. This was raw pain, powerlessness, vulnerability on full display for all the world to see.

It is this vulnerability in the person of Jesus that marks Christianity as unique among world religions. At its heart, Christians have a crucified and risen Savior. Jesus rose victorious, but first he suffered pain to the point of death.

On the cross, Jesus embodies powerlessness, pain, abandonment. His words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”* are ones many of us have uttered at some time in our life. And that moment can be one of deep and abiding connection.

This is why Christians are mandated to care for the weak, the vulnerable, the stranger in our midst. It is why Christians are meant to reach out to the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized wherever and whoever they may be – whether black, white, Hispanic, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, none of the above, gay or straight.

In the midst of the powerful, warrior god of the Incas, it is the vulnerable, crucified Christ who reached out from the painting and into my heart. May you, too, find a deep and abiding connection to something or someone beyond yourself that speaks to the very depths of your soul.

Wherever you may find it.

*Matthew 27:46

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7 Responses to Bucket List Surprises

  1. Wendy VictorNo Gravatar says:

    This post is my favorite of all your posts, Elizabeth. It reaches beyond the sadness and horrors of today, and touches our luminous heartbeat.
    You know where I am coming from – a deep and abiding faith in the essential goodness of humankind. Our only task here on earth is to get in touch with that place of love within us, and then go out and act in the world.
    Xxx

  2. LouisaNo Gravatar says:

    I was with Elizabeth, my oldest friend, on this amazing adventure to Machu Picchu. And it is truly a moving experience. I had not heard the term “thin” places before this trip, but if there is such a thing, Machu Picchu is it! Its beauty, both in its natural setting and the sheer phenomenon of how humans could build such a place, is shocking. The entire experience makes you
    feel a little closer to whatever god you believe in and will indeed move you to tears.

  3. What memories we made there together, Louisa. I will never forget your bursting into tears when you saw Machu Picchu for the first time. What power! What glory! And yes, what a “thin” place!

    Find a dear friend and go, is my recommendation to all. Louisa and I met when we were each 6 months old and were there celebrating our 65th!

  4. Here’s Walker, “Mr. Nuts and Bolts” again…
    While I do feel helping others is a needed thing, I think priority setting is a part of the decision making process that needs to be followed. I don’t feel self-centered in this, but it’s part of how I think.
    If my own home is in need of something, it is my top priority.
    If my home is in good shape, I step out one more step in my help.
    And so on with this thinking.
    For instance….
    Several years ago my old nuclear plant “pulled the plug” unexpectantly, they decided not to start it back up, 400 out of 600 employees were displaced in <60 days. I was one of those employees.
    I got home that evening, we had a family meeting, our priority at the time was us, we backed up and ensured we were good. Within a couple of weeks I was hired within the company at another nuclear plant.
    Our family was now able to move a bit further, not so self-centered. As time went on we were able to extend our help.

    So, Elizabeth, with your strong education in religion, and your travels and studies you help bring credibility to the many things you say for me. I enjoy taking your preachin' and applying it to how I think.

  5. Thank you, Walker. There is no greater honor for those of us who write, preach, or speak. And of course, you did the right thing! Remember, “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” God does not ask us to care for our neighbor instead of ourselves! So many perks get this confused.

    For me it goes back to what we hear on most airlines. “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping the child or person with you, or anyone else. If we do not care for ourselves, then we are unable to care for anyone else.

    Thank you, as always, for your insight, Walker. Keep it coming!

  6. This post is my most loved of every one of your posts, Elizabeth. It comes to past the trouble and revulsions of today, and contacts our iridescent heartbeat.

    You know what I am used to – a profound and tolerating confidence in the basic decency of mankind. Our solitary errand here on earth is to connect with that spot of affection inside us, and after that go out and act on the planet.

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