Finding the good in Good Friday

Every year it happens.

I cry on Good Friday.

Now, for those who know me, they already know that crying is not an unusual thing for me.  But Good Friday…it’s a different kind of crying.

Good Friday overwhelms me. Every year, as I contemplate what this day means, I am overcome by the depth of mercy and love that God has poured out. For me.

Broken as I am, sin-sick, twisted and torn, I am still loved. I am still made holy through a beautiful, horrible sacrifice of undeserved, abundant love.

Today is the day we remember. Rather than minimize it, as we often do, today is the day we look fully into the agony, the suffering, the pain, and the death of Jesus. Today is the day when we see just how much God loves us when we realized just how much He went through.

My Savior suffered. He was betrayed by one of His twelve closest companions.  He was abandoned by the rest. He endured shame. He knew rejection. He was spit upon, stripped of His clothing, beaten, humiliated, tied down to a pillar, whipped. His blood ran. Mocking Him, soldiers made Him a crown. The thorns ripped the Holy skin of my Savior. They led Him like an animal in front of the crowd, and the crowd turned on Him.

This same crowd that shouted “Hosanna!” a few days prior now screamed “Crucify!”

My Savior carried His heavy cross through the streets of the town, bent down low beneath it’s weight. Exhausted. Weakened. Nailed upon that cross, raised up for the crowds to come and jeer at Him, left to die a criminals death.

My sins nailed Him there.

I am overwhelmed.

And then…

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“Father, forgive them….”

Even in His agony, in the shadow of death, Christ extends mercy. Forgiveness. Love.

And He did all this willingly, took the weight of my sins, of humanity’s sins, upon His shoulders, offering Himself as a holy, spotless sacrifice for the redemption of the world.

It wrecks me that my God loves me so much that He would endure that. For me. For all of us. For every person who has ever lived or will ever be, God poured out His love on the cross that day and we are washed clean.

I don’t deserve such mercy. I don’t deserve such grace. And yet….

Forgiven.  Redeemed. Bought by the precious blood of the Lamb. The Lamb who triumphs over death with His resurrection. The Savior who brings hope into a broken world. The One who defeated the enemy and gives us a seat at the banquet table of the Father.

I am overwhelmed.

 

Inadequate

I have been slacking in my writing as of late. I feel inspired and then, by the time I sit down at the computer, I’ve either forgotten what I wanted to write about, or have decided against what I thought about.  I find that inspiration hits me when I am out running, the only time I really have to be by myself and to think in peace. But that inspiration disappears by the time I’ve showered, re-dressed, and plugged back into life. I’ve also been so busy with work, the start of the school year, and just trying to get back into a rhythm of life, that writing, pouring myself out upon the keyboard, has been low on the priority list.

Today, I’ve decided to just write. It may not be good, it may not have any redeeming qualities, and yet, I feel the need, the desire to throw thoughts out into cyberspace. To place my thoughts onto a screen, hit publish, and just be satisfied with whatever comes of it.

As I think about it, it is much the way my prayer life has been lately. I have just thrown things up to the heavens, not really giving much thought to it, not giving it the time it deserves.

Not giving God the time He deserves.

My prayers, when thought or said, have been selfish, focused on me or my family.  They are said as I am dozing off in the evening, if I even remember then. The only times I have spent recently in intentional prayer is when friends and family have laid bare their souls, asking for prayers, for healing, for God’s interventions. Then, and only then, have I laid aside my pride, my selfishness, my own desires, and cried out to the Lord on their behalf. Then, and only then, have I taken time to really offer up time and energy, thoughts and love, to God.

And is that enough? Am I enough? I know that my prayer life lately has been inadequate. I know that I have not given God my time or energy in worship, in praise, in prayer. I know that I have allowed the life I have been blessed with to distract me from the life I am meant to live. A life of praise. A life of thanksgiving. A life of prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Easier said than done, if you ask me. Oh, there are days. Those days when life is hard, when every moment is a struggle. Those are the days that are easier for me to pray, and to pray without ceasing.  When I have to rely on God in every moment, just to make it through the day, those are the days that it is easier to pray. The days when all I can do is fall to my knees and give all that I am, all that I have, up in prayer, those days are easily spent in prayer because I have nothing else.

But a regular, ordinary Tuesday? Or Saturday?

When life seems to be going swimmingly, when there is just enough money in the checking account to pay the bills, everyone is healthy, work is fun, and everyone is getting along?

Those are the harder days to pray. Those are the days where I put too much faith in myself, the days when I rely on my own strength. Those are the days when time slips away easily, and the day is over before I realize it began, and I end the day without so much as an utterance of praise or thanksgiving.  Those days when I get so wrapped up in the details of the life I’m living that I forget to thank the One who gives me life….those are the days that I think of in this moment, the days that I feel the need to ask forgiveness for, the days that make me feel inadequate as a Christian, inauthentic as a follower of Christ.

But, thankfully, even that can be redeemed. Even that, in my failings and faults, I find love and forgiveness.  I know that when I feel convicted over such things, it is only Christ reaching out to me, drawing me near to him.  That is the loving relationship that I have found in Christ. That, rather than shame and condemnation, there is this abundant love that pours out over me, pulling me in, comforting rather than damning.  Even when I pull away or ignore Him, He is ever-patient and waits for me to return, waits for me with open arms.

And so I pray, in this moment, at this time. Let the words that flow out from me now be a prayer, a breath of new life into the dust that has settled into my spirit. Let this be a prayer of joy and thanksgiving, for the words given, the soul stirred, the forgiveness granted and for the love that covers all.

Can I get an amen?

Breaking Free

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I like to think of myself of someone who lives in the moment, with an eye to the future. But I am lying to myself.  I spend a lot of time worrying about the past, thinking about mistakes, second-guessing my decisions, wasting energy on the things I can’t change.  And it is draining.

It is important to understand our past, where we come from, how it has shaped us. Our past is what forms the person we are today, but it isn’t everything about who we are.  Each and every day gives us the opportunity to break free from the past hurts and lies, and live anew in the redemptive power of the cross.

This past week I was given space and time to pray and listen to the voice of the Lord. Through that time, I was shattered. Wrecked. Strung out. Formed and transformed once again. But all of that happened in the gentle, loving way that only the Lord has. The touch of the Savior has brought me to a place of beauty and rest. My soul has been shaken, my world tilted upon its axis. And I cling to the cross, finding shelter, refuge, strength. There is nothing else to grab. There is nothing, no one, that has been the solid foundation, the firm, unyielding rock as my life has been battered by sometimes ceaseless storms. Nothing but the cross. Nothing but the love of the Father, nothing but the saving redemption of the Son, nothing but the passionate stirring of the Spirit.

The funny thing, the crazy thing, is that it all…ALL… came in such a gentle, loving way from God. In the soft, sweet prayers, the gentle nudging of this awakening to myself occurred. It was not harsh, it was not brutal, and yet I feel as shattered and shaken as if it had been.

During a time of prayer, I prayed that God would reveal to me the way in which I needed healing, the places that I needed His touch. I became aware of this pressing down, this stifling, this silencing of my voice…of my worth. I had a strong revelation that so much of what I have done in the past, so many of my sins and hurts, arose from the fact that I never felt like I was given much attention or love.

I have not been seen. Not been noticed. Not been heard. I have played the part of the good daughter, the good student, the busy worker bee. Done all the parts, did my job well. But never noticed. Never given accolades. I work in the background. Quiet. Not seeking attention for myself. But, oh, how I want someone to pay attention. To notice. To see.

Growing up an introvert in a big family, it was hard to feel as though I was paid attention to, or given what I needed. I never felt as though I had a voice that could be heard, and so many times I felt like I couldn’t use my voice if it questioned the status quo.  And I know my parents did their best, loved us in their own ways. But I ached for more.  I did what I could to get attention, any attention, playing the part of the “good girl.” As I got older, I rebelled, but quietly. I hid my rebellion from my family, hid the drinking, the darkness, the tatoo, the craziness of my life. I sought out ways of feeling like others were giving me the attention that I craved, the love I needed. But they weren’t giving me that…they were only using me. I continued to seek approval, desired attention. But never asking for it. Never verbalizing what my true needs were. Perhaps in fear of rejection, or perhaps just in fear. Those hurts, those scars of the past, have healed…but they are still there. Scars are the reminders of those wounds that were deep, that hurt so intensely.  For many years, I have tried to shutter them away, pretending they didn’t even exist.  I have come to realize the importance of recognizing the scars of the past, realizing their pain runs deep, but that they are not the essence of WHO  I am. They are just a part of the history of WHAT has happened in my life. And I do not need to live out my life now as though the wounds are fresh, or as though I am still living in the past.

There is a healing happening within me, through the saving love of the Creator. He is bringing me this awareness that I do want to be seen, cared for, loved. And isn’t that what we all desire, when all of the things of this world are stripped away? Knowing that someone loves us, someone cares.  I have a voice, an opinion, and it matters. It matter to Him, and it matters to others.

As I blog, I do want others to notice, to read my words, to allow them to resonate. I desire for others to comment, to discuss, to be open to the message I try so hard to convey. But I struggle with seeking approval from others versus using this blog to witness. Because THAT is the deep reason that I write. To point to Jesus and show how He has formed and transformed me, and is still. How do I lay down my broken self, sacrifice my pride and vanity, allow my voice to be heard without filtering it for the approval of others? This is my struggle, finding my voice and finding confidence in using it, and not using it to garner attention or approval.

The blessing of my life is that I have a husband who is, and has been, attentive to my needs, even the deep, unspoken ones. He has allowed me a place in which my voice has been encouraged, not stifled, and allowed me to grow and change and discover who I truly am. There is such freedom in feeling safe with another to show your true self. There is so much fear that inhibits one from showing and sharing the brokenness within, and so much freedom and joy when you can find another in which you can allow that to happen. Darkness fears the light, and it is only by shining light in the dark places that redemption can occur and chains of the past can be broken.