Success. What is it? How do you achieve it?
Arrianna Huffington, the baroness of a global media empire, used to think the path was up, up, up. Until she crashed.
"I was successful by all standards, but I was clearly not successful if I was lying in a pool of blood in the floor of my office," Huffington told HuffPost Live's Caroline Modarressy Tehrani, recalling the tumble that left her with a broken cheekbone.
Huffington went through rounds of doctor's appointments in an effort to identify what prompted the fall.
"I thought I might have a brain tumor," she remembered. But then she discovered that "what was wrong with me was the way I was leading my life. And what was wrong with me is what's wrong with a lot of people."
She had to redefine her life by redefining what she considered success and the path to achieve it. She thought the path was up, up, up. But she found that often in life you have to go down to go up. You have to enter deeply into your real humanity. You have to taste suffering and savor it. You have to lose things in order to find what’s most important.
It’s Holy Week, and one of the gifts it gives us is a realistic map for the journey of our lives.
The week begins on a high—the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem amid the acclamations of the crowds chanting from Psalm 118. That psalm includes the prayer, “Save is, Lord. We beseech you, give us success!” (118.25).
From that high, the week quickly descends into danger, suffering, and trauma. Huffington found herself on the floor of her office in a pool of blood. Jesus too sheds blood . . . and dies . . . and rises from it new. For Jesus, the way up is down (Philippians 2.5-11). And what’s true for Jesus, is true for the rest of us.
My point is, Holy Week is a map for the living of our lives. And walking the way of Holy Week trains us in that way of life.
“Lord, we beseech you, give us success!” The way isn’t up, up, up. It will include your failures and struggles with addictions. That way will require honesty about what fears enslave you, the courageous confrontation with your compromises, your dangerous drives, the pain that binds you.
And the truth is that you can and will rise from it all. New. Beautiful. Powerful. Free. Joyous.
This is why I’m crazy enough to call Holy Week the Divine [and human] Comedy. A comedy isn’t silly, thigh slapping slapstick. Comedy as history’s best artists have understood it, is a work that has a happy ending. And Holy Week is such a work . . . a real work of art.
Walk its way. Embrace your humanity. Enter deeply into the clay of your life—even the most wounded places within. There is a happy ending. It will end well. And that’s not slapstick. It’s the way of creation.
“Look at a grain of wheat and you’ll know what I mean,” Jesus says. “Unless it falls to the earth and dies, it cannot break open and ripen into its glorious fruitfulness. So with you. And to show you what I mean, watch me. I’ll show you the way” (John 12.24).
That’s the best of comedy. And in the midst of the struggle of life we all need a little of its hope to hold onto.
Peace to you all. And a blessed, transforming Holy Week to you.