Once upon a time…
There is a way, and its broken paths lead directly to the Cross.
I am on a pilgrimage. Yes, and this path I am on leads to a Cross that is central to everything…and I’m learning to part with my fears here. And you know what?…Surrender has everything to do with this journey. The need to do so presents itself around every bend and I am faced with a choice to hold on or to let go. And on Sunday, while an old country preacher preaches to my achy heart, I bend.
Today I’m walking paths of uncertainty and my feet are unsure. I want to look at the sights along the way but I’m distracted by the strangeness of this journey. Yet there is beauty here that will not let the eyes of my heart look away. Still, sometimes I just want to skip this part – this Cross – and move right on to the resurrection – the new life; the Sunday rather than the Friday; the empty tomb instead of the full Cross.
Last Sunday I went to our little country church and I worshipped God with my fellow Jesus lovers. We sang sweetly and we bowed our heads and we raised our hands in adoration to my cross-bearing Savior. When it came time for Pastor to preach, I began to feel sick and decided that it might be better if I go out to the car, while my family continue in the service. As I began to collect my purse and keys, one of my children distracted me and when I finished quietly explaining to my child that, yes, we could go to the park for a picnic after church, God impressed upon my spirit that I should stay.
And then God spoke to my miserable soul through the voice of that old country preacher and my spirit knew immediately it was for me. Me. God loves me so much that He spoke to me that day, and this is what He said…
“When you fear, you are not surrendered. You hold onto everything so tightly, and you fight so hard with your knuckles white and your heart tense. Surrender now, and you will feel the exhale.”
(“Oh yeah, I forgot about the surrender thing for just a minute there. Yes, right now, I surrender, Lord. Speak on preacher. Speak on God, through Preacher. Speak, for Your servant hears.”)
The Preacher continues, “The time is now for surrender. Should you hold on and refuse, surely Satan will level you. God’s ways are best. Be bold and courageous and surrender all to Him. And if you are holding back something – anything, I want you to stand up right now and I’m gonna cry out to God for you.”
I hate anything and everything that draws attention to me, but God says, “Stand up, now.” So I stand up, and like the woman who came to Jesus with the issue of blood, I bury the pride, and trembling, I reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
(“Lord, this coming to the cross and surrendering are one in the same, aren’t they? It’s what I’ve been missing, isn’t it?”)
Immediately I sense something important has just happened in me and God reminds me of the man with the withered hand from Mark 3:1-6. Jesus told him to extend his withered hand, but what if the man hadn’t done so? What if he had been too embarrassed and held back?
Missed blessings and thoughts of them remind me of my own pride and I know that today some of it was obliterated as I stood for that prayer. And my heart has been changed in knowing that I need to come…with all of my imperfectness, and simply touch the hem and present to Him my own “withered hand”, my own “issue with blood”…and be healed.
I am a student and God is my Teacher. But the truth is, I overthink everything and my brain gets worn out. Part of this journey of surrender – the Cross – has been laying the many thoughts I have and simply leaving them there at the foot of the Cross; it’s my surrender – my sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor to my God. And He lovingly accepts it and He lovingly accepts me, because ”I am accepted in the Beloved”. Yes, I am, and I thank God for it.
We are all on a journey, wouldn’t you agree? Mine may be different than yours, but our basic needs are the same: we need God and we need each other. So, today I offer to you what God has given to me…lessons, precious – tried in the fires of adversity and experience. And you may not think it is much, but what I have I give. Here goes:
If you are scared, friend, come to the Cross. I always wondered what that meant – coming to the Cross. It was one of the many things that I tried to understand intellectually, but always fell short in reckoning these truths as reality in my experience. Here’s what the Bible says, “ I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live…” This is a done deal – the co-crucifixion – and it should be our reality. Why is that important? Because it’s ALL been taken care of there on that cross! If you are a child of God, you are all wrapped up in that love and when God gave us salvation, He didn’t stop at eternal life…no, He made way for healing, deliverance, peace, and so much more! So, when we can grasp not only the sacrifice, but also the love, and through His Spirit live it out, we can be set free – truly free. Not being afraid anymore sounds sweet, right? Calvary love is perfect love, and perfect love casts out fear!
And then…when Friday ends and Sunday comes! Blessed resurrection…Jesus died – I died, but He rose again…and that resurrection life can be my reality too! I want to walk in newness of life, don’t you? I’m tired of defeat and I’m tired of seeing you defeated too. Where is the power, people?
It’s here: it’s Sunday power after Friday crucifixion. Death, then life.
So, today, right now, let’s remember that our Redeemer lives, and His life is ours. What a beautiful gift has been given to the undeserving, the unloving, the cast aways, the lovers of self, the gluttons, the fearers, the faithless…us. You. And. Me. So when life just feels like it’s just a little too much, rejoice that the tomb is hollow and it is empty, and the grave clothes bear witness to death turned life.
Shalom Aleichem (Peace be upon you).