For those of us who profess to be followers of Christ, today is a sacred and holy day. Good Friday is a day that Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus.
Some of us will find ourselves in church today, in solemn, quiet, reflective worship. We will try to imagine the horrible, painful way that Jesus died on a cross. We will listen to the words from scripture that Jesus spoke to the criminals who were on either side of him as he and they died an excruciating death. We will hear the words he spoke to his beloved disciple and his mother, who surely must have ached in every way and whose hearts must have been shattered at the sight of their beloved Jesus dying before them and having no way to stop the torture or agony that he endured. We will hear the cry of a Son to his Father just before he breathed his last breath, asking in the depths of unfathomable pain why he had been forsaken.
And, at the end Jesus will speak his final words. It is finished. Father into your hands I commend my spirit. Death has come. The one who loved so much that he would die for all he loved–for all of us–took no more air into his lungs. His heart stopped and his body hung lifelessly on a Roman cross.
This is not the end of the story. Mercifully, thankfully, this is not the end of the story. We know, we believe, we have faith in the light, love and joy that will be found on Easter morning.
The season of Lent and the days Christians call Holy Week are the days that are set aside to prepare us for what comes next. From Ash Wednesday until Easter, we can find ourselves in something of a wilderness place. After Jesus was baptized, he spent forty days in the wilderness where, as a Son of Man and a Son of God, he encountered physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges and tests. Jesus would know in his way, just as we know in our ways, what it means to spend time in the wilderness.
Last year, during the season of Lent, I lived in the wilderness. I did not experience the same kinds of temptations and trials that Jesus faced. These were mine and they were extremely difficult.
I expect that we all have these wilderness experiences where we find ourselves wrestling with things that have overwhelmed us, beaten us, tempted us, scarred us and left us in places of loneliness, despair, misery and hopelessness. Life does that to us. We do it to ourselves. And, we can live there for a short time or, for some, the rest of our days.
I wrote about my wilderness time and felt that perhaps it would be okay to share it with anyone who wished to read it. I offer it only for the purpose of saying to anyone who reads it that when you find yourself in that place you would call desert or wilderness–the most empty, lonely, barren place you have ever been–remember that you are not alone. You are in the company of One whose spirit and presence is with you. You are in the company of One who understands and has been in the place you find yourself. And, you are in the company of One who loves you so much that He would die for you so that you need not ever be alone in the wilderness or on any part of your journey through life.
On this Good Friday, I wish you peace….
In the Wilderness
I’ve been to the place where it is barren and brown. It does not invite me to be there, although I may be kept there for what seems far too long. I am pushed there by forces that have the power to do so. While there, I exist in the parched land that has long forgotten the taste of water.
My soul is thirsty in this dry land. My body longs for just a drop of anything that will quench this thirst. But, the water that I need will not come from the dryness of this place. It is in the tears that have welled within me that life comes back to me and allows me to emerge from the wilderness. It is a living water that comes from another source, put into me by One who wishes that I live abundantly and beyond the wilderness.
As the tears fall, they wet the dust. At first, they are only like a sprinkling on an early spring day. But, when I give them permission to leave, they come in showers, even torrents–the kind known on hot summer days when storms emerge from the dark clouds and pass over with a force that disturbs, but also cleanses the air and the earth over which it has moved.
With each tear, my thirst lessens. With each tear, my body pushes back against the forces that sent me to the wilderness. Tears mark time in the wilderness and when enough have been shed, when my cries have been heard, when my soul has been soothed, I find myself able to now leave the wilderness and move into a place of peace.
The journey from wilderness to peace will never be made with ease. We rarely willingly choose to walk through wilderness. I was pushed there and could not resist the force.
The steps are heavier in the beginning because of what I carried into the wilderness. But, when I leave, the load I carried will be lifted from me. I no longer have to keep it. It has been taken from me. Somewhere along the dry and dusty path, somewhere between the lightest drops of rain and the strongest storms, the Being who is more powerful than the wilderness took away what I brought in. The Being was the only one who could bear it so that I could leave the wilderness with something else.
I leave with something more powerful than the wilderness or the forces that sent me there.
I leave with love from One who knew the wilderness, too.
I leave because this One could show me the way forward.