Saturday, April 30, 2011
It was Good Friday. Waking up early, I put on my favourite dress, then grabbed my “new” canvas coat (which is cool if you like old, secondhand stuff), and walked out the door to take my host mum to the gym before setting off down the motorway to church. Mt Albert, the section of Auckland where I go Sundays and Wednesdays to church and house-church, had organised a Good Friday walk. Beginning at the Catholic church, we walked for a while between the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, and the Anglican church before concluding at our church. Each stop took about fifteen minutes, and each church presented a portion of the Good Friday story. From the Last Supper at the Catholic church to the Mourning of Jesus’ death at our Baptist church, we walked through the rain as we remembered what Jesus did for us. Remembering it like this, it was obvious how relevant the events of that day a couple thousand years ago were to us in this rainy day.
When I was a little girl, I remember vividly seeing a Sunday School picture of Jesus on the cross for what I suppose was the first time. This man that I had always known to love me (as I was told by my parents and my grandparents and by everyone else in my life) was dying. What is a little girl supposed to do with something like that? I couldn’t go to the service that day after seeing the picture. Someone had to sit with me outside while my dad preached. The memory of the cross and the pain of Jesus having to die has never left me, and I remember that day as the day I really knew that I loved Jesus back. Maybe it was the day I really discovered what it felt to love.
You probably have a story like this as well – when you first realized Love. When you first realized Jesus and the reality of the story. To this day, I can’t look at photos of Jesus on a cross. I look away in houses that have the little ceramic Jesuses on the cute little pastel crosses. Yesterday, I re-watched Louie Giglio’s “Indescribable” and closed my eyes when he showed an aged photo of my God bleeding for me.
We sing the songs like “Oh, the Wonderful Cross” and “The Old Rugged Cross”, and there were times when I tried so hard to mean the words that say things like “I love that old cross”, and “I’ll cherish the old rugged cross”, “O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me”. The tears would squeeze out of my eyes with the pain in my heart that wanted to love the cross, but there was always a bitterness of some sort perhaps. Maybe it was the bitterness and the anger toward myself – you know, that I was so bad that someone had to die so that I could live. I don’t want someone to die for me. Especially someone I love. How can I love something that caused so much pain to the one person I know will always, always love me? I hope you can relate to this – that I’m not rambling simply because I can’t go to sleep. May these words be relevant to you.
Good Friday was precious this time around. It wasn’t a day that I spent hunched over, feeling guilty, closing my eyes, and straining to recognise every detail of the story as a mirror of my failures. If you’ve read the “Pan Pilgrimage” book I wrote a few months ago, you’ll probably know now that this was a special Easter for me. About six months ago, a friend sat down with me and re-told me the simple gospel. He told it in two sentences. That gospel changed everything. That simple truth – the truth of what Jesus covered for me – has brought healing into my broken life. It has brought confidence and courage. It has brought peace and security. My friend told me that Jesus was my sacrifice. He told me that I didn’t have to sacrifice anymore.
Six months ago, I had struggled with self-mutilation for six years. This Easter, all I wanted to do was sit in Jesus’ lap and pour out to him endless “thank you’s” for covering my blood with his. All the pain I’ve ever felt, he felt for me on that wonderful cross. The wrists that were pierced for me are symbols of the sacrifice that I don’t have to give anymore. They are symbols of the burdens he never wanted me to carry. They are pictures of the love that will never die, but will teach me to live. I’ll never be the person I was. And it’s because of the old rugged cross that made a difference in this little girl’s life.