Friday, May 2, 2014

Easter Reflection

As I reflect on Easter, there is an incredible amount to think about.  Obviously I think about Jesus dying for me and that incredible act of forgiveness.  I relish in that and thank him over and over again.  But given my past, it’s still extremely hard for me to accept that forgiveness.  Why?  Well throughout the last 10-20 years, I've become an agent of guilt.  I’ll choose to dive into lustful things, selfish things, really…any sinful thing and come out feeling like trash.  In turn, I tend to parent that way hoping my children will feel guilty enough about their transgressions that they won’t dare do it again.  Now this isn't a conscious decision to parent this way.  I've conditioned myself into thinking it will work.  It’s sad really because my guilt doesn't ever make me repent, it makes me feel sorry for myself and angry at myself and I end up diving into sin all the more.

This year I went to a local church for an event called, “Stations of the Cross.”  There were 9 stations following Jesus from the garden to His exit from the tomb.  At each station, we had an opportunity to pray to Christ, thank Him for His sacrifice and answer questions pertaining to the scripture on each wall and what Jesus was currently going through.  It was extremely moving and caused me to really think about where I’m at these days and how I view the sacrifice Christ made for me.

As I went through each station, a common theme began to take form.  Jesus lived each station I was walking through and each station had me wanting Jesus to stop doing these things for me.  I know…it sounds crazy, but I literally found myself wanting to get in His way and let him see who was saving, thinking it would make Him stop.  I honestly envision it this way…

As Christ prayed to His Father at the Garden, I found myself wanting to talk God The Father out of this whole “Die for my Sins,” thing.  I picture it like this, “God.  Hey it’s me, Charlie.”  He responds, “I know.  I created you.”  I should have seen that one coming, but I go on… “God, I realize you love me and created me the way I am, but I have to ask you to put a stop to this.  Jesus is following you blindly here.  I mean, He knows what is going to happen, but reward Him for His faith and please put a stop to this.  I’m not worth it!!!”  As soon as I say those words, He disappears.

The next thing I know, I’m standing next to Pilot as he addresses the angry crowd surrounding Jesus.  I listen intently to the conversation, disgusted by the crowd’s chants, but beaming as I hear Pilot say he finds no reason for Jesus to be crucified.  I find myself elated and relieved that Pilot was about to put a stop to something not even God The Father was willing to do.  But then Pilot washes his hands and before I can even whisper in his ear and plead Christ’s case, he releases him to the angry mob.  As I start to yell Pilot’s name, he disappears along with everyone else.

Instantly, I find myself in a crowd of monsters witnessing Jesus wearing a crown of thorns shoved deeply into His brow as He is savagely beaten, insulted, spit upon and whipped repeatedly with a Cat-of-Nine-Tails.  I try to scream loud enough to be heard over the angry crowd, “Jesus!  Son of God!!!  Release yourself and flee!  Please Lord!  PLEASE!!!”  I scream louder and louder as each drop of blood and flesh thrown from the Cat of Nine Tails, soak up one of my sins.  “JESUS STOP THIS!  YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO IT, SO PLEASE PUT AN END TO THIS!!!”

In the blink of an eye, the crowd, the guards, Jesus and everyone else is gone and I’m left sitting in the pool of Jesus’ blood.  With His screams of agony still fresh in my brain, I immediately grab any kind of cloth or fabric I can find and try feverishly to clean the area where The Son of God was nearly beaten to death.  I wipe and scrub as fast as I can, but nothing is happening.  I scrub harder and harder to the point of my fingers breaking, but nothing soaks up the blood.  I cry out to God, “He is faithful!  He’s been faithful almost to the point of death!  Please stop this!!!”

The tears rolling down my face are suddenly gone and I open my eyes to see Jesus falling down repeatedly as He tries to carry the cross built for His death.  I try to bust through the crowd in hopes that I might whisper into His ear, “There’s still time.  Save yourself, Jesus.  I’m not worth all this.”

Just then the guards grab a man from the crowd and order Him to carry Jesus’ cross.  Again, my hopes quickly arise, as now Jesus has an opportunity to slip into the crowd, to disappear, to never be seen or beaten or mocked again.  He can be free of this death and I can go home, not having witnessed anymore.  But with one look from Jesus, my hopes are crushed.  While dragging his own shredded body through the streets, His look simply says, “It’s time and you are worth it.”  I cry out and scream, “Jesus NO!  I’m not!!!  I’m not!!!  Please Lord, NO!!!”  The grief is too much and I fall.

I awaken to the sound of hammer on nail…hammer on nail…hammer on nail.  As I begin to open my eyes, I feel my arms thrashing violently over and over.  As my vision becomes clear, I see one of my hands swinging a hammer and the other holding a nail.  I’m the one nailing Jesus to this cross and I can’t stop!  I begin to vomit and for every purge I strike the nail even harder.  I look to Jesus expecting to see him cry out in pain with each strike, but He calmly looks into my eyes and says, “Yes, your sins put me here, but do not weep for me, weep for yourself.”

I back up and fall to my knees.  I don’t want to witness this!   I want to run away, but my legs won’t move!  I sit and watch as the cross is dropped into the ground, hoping it will break and Jesus might somehow finally be freed…but it doesn't.

I lay there for hours watching, weeping, and hoping there is still some way out for The Son of God.  Then I hear Him say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”  There it is!  I again have hope!  My legs are swiftly renewed and I run to the cross.  “You’re wrong, Jesus!  I knew I was sinning when I lied.  I knew I was sinning when I looked at porn.  I knew I was sinning when I turned my back on you, when I was selfish, when I did wrong.  Get down from there!  I’m not worth it!  I’M not worth it!  I’M NOT WORTH IT!!!!”  With my last screaming attempt to rescue him, my voice goes silent.  I try and try, but I can’t even make the slightest whimper.

At that moment, Christ looks down at me and with His eyes filled with relief and promise, He whispers, “It is finished.”

At the tomb, I weep.  Not for Jesus, but for me.  For my loss of innocence…for my lack of faith…for my doubt…for lost time with my wife, my kids, my family & friends.  I weep for not stopping to speak to a stranger in need...for being selfish.  Ultimately, I weep for not embracing what Jesus, My Savior, set out to do for me.

The last Station of the Cross, Jesus showed himself to His Disciples, fulfilling the promise He made…that He had beaten death and was still alive.  Today and everyday going forward, He has and will continue to show He is still alive and that every sin, every iniquity, and every misstep from here to eternity is paid for.

Right now, I feel myself being asked the same questions the Disciples were asked after Christ’s death and resurrection.  Will you hide in fear?  Will you seek the lost?  Will you be my hands and feet?  Will you not only accept what I have done, but believe it as well?  Will you take up your cross?

Will I take up my cross?  I will, but it won’t be easy.  All too many times, I've thrown boxes and any other crap I can find, directly on my cross, so I don’t have to carry it.  Why?  Well, simply because often times it seems a lot easier to play the part of a Christian…to act like everything is perfect in my life…to act like I don’t sin, so I don’t have to actually carry my cross.  Living out my faith can and does take me out of my comfort zone and pushes me to change.  Change takes a lot of work and when you've been so lazy for so long, the weight of that cross seems like way too much to carry.

That weight will only increase, if I try to carry it all on my own, but this Easter has reminded me that I don’t have to carry it on my own.  Look, I’m not saying I won’t have to work hard to change things, but I know if I give Jesus the opportunity to change me, He in turn will help carry the weight of that cross.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me smile a whole bunch.

Since Easter, I've decided to make a lot of spiritual, mental and physical changes.  I've set goals in all those areas, but the biggest is to spend time with Jesus and surrender guilt because without attaining those goals, every other thing I set before me will be futile.  Oh…and I’m already making steps in dropping the unconscious “parent by guilt” thing, so my kids can learn from their mistakes, while living with joy.  I figure that’s pretty important.

So here’s where you come in, if you’re up for it… I’d really appreciate it if you’d take some time to pray for me, that I will allow Jesus and His sacrifice to take hold in my life more and more every day.  And if you’re up for a challenge, I not only invite you to think about what changes you can make in your life as you reflect on Easter, but to actually take steps to change in those areas .

Cheers to “Christian New Years” when we are reminded of Jesus’ gift of a new life and embracing our chance to live it out!