I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3: 10-11
It was one of those warm and drizzly April mornings. I still feel a bit damp from the vernal kind of rain from heaven that spits right in your eye. And I’m still marveling at the mystery of a God of Heaven who let his mockers spit right in his.
I still have this fresh and cavernous knowing about where I would have been on that messy, ugly, beautiful, good Friday 2000 years ago because I know where I was a few days ago, on this most recent Good Friday of remembrance.
On Friday, I was a mess of broken. On Friday, I was overwhelmed by a hurting world, and a hurting home, and hurting kids who didn’t know why they shouldn’t have their way, and a hurting mama who didn’t know why she shouldn’t have hers. On Friday, I was mocked and disrespected by my own…not in the same as our Lord, but in a way that points to how he might have felt. And on Friday, I spewed harsh words, and came face-to-face with my own depravity that hung Jesus on that tree.
I’m still carrying some heart wounds from the ugly moment my big-hearted boy and I had, and I’m still mending some heart wounds that I caused. On Friday, I felt it – the lost and broken and despairing “Not yet” of the world we live in and the fragmented hearts we live with. On Friday, I felt the longing for Sunday, for all things to be made new, for all things to be set right, and to escape this broken and shattered soul of mine.
On Friday, during the short recess between the altercation and reconciliation with my son, I went to the garage and nailed together a small wooden cross. I held the hammer and the dark metal nails and the splintered wood, and I pounded it together with my own hands. I had this holy encounter with the Spirit of God as I engaged the strength of my body in the act. As I ruminated on the fact that I was right there chanting and accusing, and Christ was right there loving me and forgiving me…I knew it raw, that my hands hammered the nails and my name was in the mind of Christ as he hung upon the cross.
And I wonder how we live with the hope of Sunday morning, remembering that Jesus conquered sin and death lost it’s sting, when we still live in a world that hurts with hearts that malfunction. I wonder how we keep taking the next step when loved ones die, and diagnoses are given, and marriages wrench and break, and there’s division and hatred and terrorism and an underworld of slavery.
Christ is risen, but I think the earth still thinks it’s Friday. There is still a broken mess of ash being made new slowly, in the power of the resurrection. There’s still a kingdom of God coming to earth, that has not yet fully come. There’s still a Christ who will return and reign, but is not yet here. There’s still an enemy who is defeated but has not yet been thrown down. Promises are left not yet fulfilled. We still suffer and ache and sin and get sick and feel the death and heartache of Friday.
But Sunday is coming.
Almost immediately after my son and I reconciled, he joyfully spilled out a prolific pile of art with crosses and rays of light and empty tombs and hearts. He made a request for our family to take communion together when daddy got home, “to remember what Jesus did for us.” He named it and said he was nailing his ugly moment to the cross. And I said I was nailing mine too.
Once again, our brokenness led us right to the cross. The more I walk in weakness, the more I’m open to Christ’s strength. The more I walk in death to myself, the more I’m open to the power of the resurrection. The more I surrender, the more I’m sustained.
On Sunday morning — Easter, divine and triumphant — our children woke to fun surprises, and we all got dressed in our Sunday best, the kids in their matching outfits and their matching hairstyles and their matching smiles. But by the time we pulled out of the driveway, their mom and dad felt a bit like frauds, having wrestled mind, body, and soul through the messes and arguments, the pressure for perfection that distracts from the meaning of the morning, the little attitudes that we try to force into a “joyful gratitude” box rather than gently shepherding, the ugliness that bubbles up in our own hearts as we see things going differently than our expectations. On Sunday morning, we hurt each other’s feelings, and I walked a teary baby through a sermon I longed to soak in. On Sunday morning, I wiped the remnants of chocolate eggs and a bit of spit up from my Easter dress. And it was all sweet surrender. On Sunday morning, I needed to lay down my comforts and expectations, control and pride, and let joy in. It’s the death of mess and brokenness that open me up to encounter the Risen Christ.
Monday’s gray sky today feels like a stark contrast to yesterday’s bright, hot sun, and the messiness of my weekend stood in stark contrast to the joy of the resurrection. But there is no short cut to Sunday morning. There is no Sunday without Friday. There is no resurrection without death. The light and joy of the morning must stand in contrast to the night.
So, how do we live in a Friday world with a Sunday hope? I’m right here in the muck with you, but here’s some truth to which my messy weekend and my gracious God are leading me.
Get low… If we want to know Christ, we will share fellowship not only in his resurrection, but also in his death. As we lay our lives down with his, we are raised with him. As we share in his cross-carrying suffering, we then share in the joy and fully-alive life of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10) . If we want to bear fruit, we must die to ourselves, as the grain of wheat dies to produce a harvest (John 12: 24). We have to get out of our own way, and out of the way of a God who loves to fill us when we are emptied out. We get out of the way of a God who loves to offer us his grace and mercy and provision as we stop trusting ourselves or our resources and start trusting him. As we decrease and make peace with our emptiness and weakness, Christ increases in us.
Throw an anchor… On Sunday, we swam in a beautiful ocean of posts and texts and proclamations that said: “He is risen!” My lips and spirit echoed the ravishing truth. But the rest of what’s true is that it takes an intentional move of mind and heart for those words to make it from my ears or my lips into the mess of my real life and my real quaking heart. I need to acknowledge the pain of promises not yet fulfilled, pain not yet healed, habits of sin not yet fully broken, and I need to proclaim this truth as a hope that anchors me in the midst of a world that still feels a whole lot like Friday. To keep walking in these days that hurt, we need to have an anchor of hope to keep our feet secure. Our anchor of hope is that God has promised to never leave or forsake us. Our anchor of hope is that God has promised us forgiveness through Christ for our shortcomings past, present and future. Our anchor of hope is that God has promised us a glorious inheritance. When the curtain tore after Jesus’s death, God promised us access to deep intimacy with him, that we can approach his throne with confidence. Our anchor of hope is in God’s promise that we will not always ache, that he is making all things new, that he will bring beauty from ashes, that he will wipe every tear. Our anchor of hope is in Sunday morning’s risen Christ.
Open your mouth… The Sunday proclamations are still ringing in my ears, and I believe they are a key to unlocking joy. We have to go ahead and say it: “He is risen!” Hallelujah! It’s the greatest news, the core of our faith, the source of our hope. We rejoice in what God has done for us, what we believe He is doing, and what we believe He will ultimately do. Regardless of our circumstances, we have a charge to “Rejoice in the Lord, always.” (Philippians 4: 4).
And when we rejoice that the immovable stone was rolled away, we are given immovable joy.
So today, let’s get low, throw down an anchor of hope, and open our mouths in praise.