I’ve never been a regular blogger but this past year it was particularly hard to publish any thoughts not only because of having a second child, but mainly because there was a sudden “death” in the family.
It happened about two weeks before I gave birth to E, after a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas with the whole family. Then right before the New Year, our world turned upside down.
Even now, over a year later, we still mourn and grieve. Family celebrations haven’t been the same since and in our happiest moments a quiet, heavy sadness remains.
This week was a particularly hard week to ignore that deep sense of loss.
And this morning, I was so broken that I had to recall the words of this song to keep myself going.
I lift my eyes up to the mountains
Where does my help come from
My help comes from you
Maker of heaven, Creator of the earth
Oh how I need you Lord
You are my only hope
You are my only prayer
So I will wait for you
To come and rescue me
Come and give me life
I lift my eyes up to the mountains where does my help come from
(Based on Psalm 121)
As I hum this song to myself in a low, halting quiver, a thought came to me.
So this is the heart of God! Although it’s only partial, I finally have a glimpse into the agony God must have “felt” on Good Friday – in burying Jesus Christ.
As Christians we like to stress the positive – we lavishly celebrate Easter Sunday, toasting the resurrection of Christ, but how many of us take the time to dwell on the pain and suffering of Good Friday? And by “dwell” I mean really wallow in it?
And even when we do, we still sometimes miss the point. When God asks us to die to ourselves, we often focus on giving to Him our brokenness. After being convicted of our vast sins we gratefully put all of our failures on the alter – to be covered in Christ’s salvation and to have our transgressions cleaned.
But that’s just the first, initial death. He asks us to die to ourselves constantly.
And God is not simply asking us to place our worst before Him. He is asking us to hand over our best self – our highest aspirations and achievements. Our biggest hopes and dreams and not just the ones that are already broken.
On that Good Friday, our God buried His Beloved Christ, at the height of His greatest hour. Just as the world was beginning to experience His awesome power, God allowed Christ to be nailed to the cross and die for us, with the full knowledge that we will repeatedly betray that sacrifice.
I realized today that that’s the crux of my suffering – I want to hang on to my deepest desires and memories when God is offering me a complete overhaul.
On this (and each) Good Friday, He is asking me, “My child, are you willing to give up your best of everything? Are you willing to bury your most cherished relationships, talents, achievements, hopes and dreams?”
Because that’s what “dying to self” means – not withholding anything from the complete renewal (think “replacement”) and transformation of me, especially the “best” parts of me. When God asks me to confess my sins and give up my worst self, I am glad to obey because who wouldn’t want a better life? But when He asks for my best, to be replaced by His best – I am reluctant because deep down, I like my life the way it is. But tonight I hear Him say, “Jenny, hand it over to me. ALL of it, even the things you don’t want to have replaced.”
To be honest, this is a sobering realization.
But our God understands the pain it involves; He has already experienced this kind of loss Himself. On Good Friday He buried the best part of Himself. For you and for me.
The good news is that on resurrection Sunday, Christ DOES overcome and a brand new me WILL emerge from death with Him. Not only that, this is not a process that I am to go through only once a year on Easter weekend, it needs to be an ongoing sacrifice.
So tonight, on Good Friday, I will draft a list of my most cherished everything. I will reflect on this list and pray to hand them over to God. He has asked for all of me – which includes not only the worst but more importantly, the best parts of me and my future as well. And going forth, I need to do this daily until dying to myself simply becomes a natural state of being.
Thank you Lord for answering my call for help today. Please accept this reflection and dedication as my act of worship tonight. In Jesus’ redeeming name I pray.