Flowers of every color adorn the cross. It is gorgeous but only a memory now. As I gaze at the photo, I reflect on Lent and Easter. Each year is different, though my goals remain the same, to love God more dearly and sincerely.
This Lent I resolved to take up two actions and give up a third one: write and exercise daily and bypass sweets. I let go of the first two intentions, caving after only a week, and clung to the third by a thread. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday finally arrived, but instead of attending church as I traditionally do, I sat down with our Father and asked if I ought to go.
“What would be your purpose in going?” I imagined Him asking.
“I should go to honor and embrace Your sacrifice.” I answered.
“Those are valid reasons. Do they come from your head or your heart?” He pressed.
“My head, I guess,” I admitted. “Going feels like an obligation. I’d be ashamed of myself if I didn’t go,” I replied.
“So you would go to satisfy something you think I want you to do, something you’re obliged to do and to ward away shame?” He asked.
“Yeah, I guess those are the real reasons I would go,” I replied.
“Now do you know whether you should go or not?”
“I should not go if I’m looking for Your love and acceptance. You already died to give me those things. Didn’t You?” I asked, knowing the answer. A weight lifted off my back.
…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…”
I imagined His face softening as He lifts my head and looks in my eyes. “Suzy, don’t kneel in front of My cross as if I require you to earn my love. Get up and brush the dirt from your knees. You gravitate back to this dark place too often. Why do you think you come here?”
“I’m trying to experience Your betrayal as one who took the thirty pieces of silver or ran away when it got dangerous. I figure that if I grasp the depth of my sin, then my love for You will expand. You said Yourself that he who is forgiven much will love much.” I explained.
“Forgiven for sins of which the Holy Spirit convicts, yes, but not vague evil which you suspect or conjure,” Jesus countered.
I pushed my point. “But in the past, mourning my sin in Lent brought me closer to you.”
“So why do you think that didn’t work for you this time?” He asked.
“I don’t know. I probably didn’t try hard enough.”
“How does it go when you try on your own and leave Me out of it?”
“Did I do that?” I wondered. ““You’re right, I think I did,” I conceded, then we both laughed, knowing He is never wrong.
“Stick to Me,” He said. “Here, take My hand, and let’s walk away from the shadow of the cross and stand in front of the empty tomb. No, turn around, don’t look inside. I’m not there.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
“Now, with our backs to the tomb, look out at spring. See all the life? This is where you find me. My love has accomplished all of this, and it’s yours. I want you to be joyful, to accept my pleasure in you, like a child at Christmas. Rip open your gifts and let them thrill you. Don’t feel guilty about them. Put them on, play with them, and use them. Hug me, if you feel like it, then enjoy them. Isn’t that what brings you joy with your own children?”
“Yes. Yes!” I replied. “I love it when I give them a gift tailored for them, the kind of present that when I saw it, I knew it was for them and that they’d love it.” A recent memory bubbled up in my head. “You did that for me on my birthday, didn’t You?” I asked. The remembrance of that moment filled me with happiness.
“You’re talking about the bluebird and his chick in the backyard?” A knowing smile played on his face.
“Yes. “ I replied. I’ve never seen a blue bird in my yard even after putting up a birdhouse, bird bath and bird seed. I’ve longed to see one.”
“I knew,” He said with kindness.
Emotion welled in me. “Of course You did. Only you knew that secret desire, and then, on my birthday of all mornings, that ball of feathers near the porch caught my eye. I couldn’t identify him until his father flashed in and the sun caught his blue and rust feathers. Will You please help me paint the little guy so I can’t forget Your gift?”
“I’ve already given you all you need to paint it.” He reminded me with a wink. “Use it.”
“Thank You, thank You. I will.”
“My absolute pleasure, “ He said and nodded with a smile.