Good Friday: The Silence and Stillness of Waiting

Good Friday calls for silence.

Our heart grows quiet as the Scriptures inform us with the facts of that Passover Friday so long ago.  The unimaginable reality of Jesus Christ of Nazareth enduring torture, suffering, and the weight of humanity’s sin cause our hearts to beat more slowly.  The facts of Calvary grip our conscience like a mother imparting urgent wisdom to her child, “Hush, now! Your very life depends on this silence.” 

Silence is sobering.  It brings you in touch with your own fragileness—the thumping of your heartbeat, the hard swallow of your stoic composure, the brushing of your own hesitant breath.  In the silence, you don’t get distracted from who you really are.

In the silence you deeply know how closely connected you are to the facts of Calvary.  Your torture He withstood.  Your suffering He endured.  Your sin He bore.  Left with only this knowledge, the silence might well be suffocating.   If the story ended on Good Friday the silence would be only death, sucking out life’s last gasp of breath.  Oh, what a bad Friday it would be!

There is more to Good Friday’s silence.

Good Friday’s silence comes with a stillness; a waiting for the rest of the story.  In Scripture we find that many a Passover is encored by a Pass Through.   It is in the encore that the information of Good Friday transforms us.  It’s the Pass Throughs that invite us into the waters of new life.

There’s another story tucked away, far removed from the time and place of Calvary.  It tells of God’s people exiting Egypt and its oppression.  Passover joy quickly silenced by their entrapment, with the oppressor’s destruction closing in on them.  Nothing dashes hope like a short-lived victory. 

“As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD.  Then they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?  [Hear them assume death?]  Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’  For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’” Exodus 14:10-12. 

You know, if you’re being honest, you have had moments like this.  The moments where you forget the Lord’s provision.  Forget His powerful deeds.  Forget to marvel at His ways.  All you remember is how it used to be; only what it was like before the Passover.  I have to think this is how the disciples felt on the first Good Friday.  The Bad Guys have won. 

But Passovers always point to something that is not completed yet. 

“But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear!  Stand still and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians [your oppressors] whom have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.’  Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me?  Tell the sons of Israel to go forward’” Exodus 14:13-15.

Now it is finished.  We can all go forward.  “It is finished.”  Our oppression from sin is done.

We all need the work of Passover—most notably Good Friday’s Passover—but, it is the wonder of the Pass Through into the new and resurrected life that makes today’s silence bearable.  We pause to give thanks on Passover for what should have been ours, but by grace has passed us by.  So too we give thanks that we will not stay in this place.  We will go forward; we will Pass Through.  Do you not hear the Spirit saying, “Hush, now! Your new life depends on this silence”? 

The message of Good Friday transforms the silence into anticipatory stillness.  One of the most dramatic moments of a symphony is when the conductor’s baton rises in the still silence of the darkened auditorium and in one fail swoop it awakens the violin, flute, and bass.  In the silent stillness the song comes alive. 

The silence of Good Friday is not a slow creep to a meaningless death.  No!  It is the still watching for new life to be awakened.  Reflect today.  Be still.  Anticipate!

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10.

There Are Days…

Do you ever find that there are days that seemed filled with more than your share of allowable errors? 

Yesterday I was more mistake-prone than usual.  I overslept.  I had an editing fail.  I spoke some careless words.   I forgot to pick up my boy at baseball…causing the hubs to miss a business dinner.  I arrived home to a messy house filled with grumpiness.  It was an epic fail day.

Instead of going from “strength to strength,” I seemed to be on one slow ride swirling around the drain of humanity.

Humans fail.  It’s a reality we try so hard to avoid. 

I don’t know why we are so reality-resistant about our humanity.  Pride.  Insecurity.  Fear of others.    Maybe the need to measure up gives us a false sense of security that we won’t be swallowed up…by other’s expectations or criticisms, or overlooked, or worst of all, found unworthy. 

There are days when I think we’re all just trying too hard.  Doing too many things to prove we’ve got what it takes. 

There are days when the failures–be they big or small–are just reminders that I haven’t yet surrendered to humility.  I haven’t yet embraced the virtue of being poor in spirit.  No, the poor in spirit have nothing of their own accounting.  They have reached into the depths of their performance pockets and pulled out nothing.  They are desperately dependant on the riches of another.  They’ve come to the end of themselves–and their own kingdom building–and have surrendered to One whose riches are not conditioned on their perfected accomplishments.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”  Matthew 5:3.

There are days when that has to be enough. 

What will you need to surrender today in order to let it be enough for you?

Greater than Our Forgetfulness

I’m prone to forgetfulness.

Mind you, I never forget useless trivia, failures, and disappointments.  These details of life get worn around my heart like tarnished trinkets on a bracelet.

My forgetfulness is much more dangerous.

I forget the words of truth…and those whose speak them, the victories won, and the faith-that-moves-mountain moments.  I forget that I have been “drawn with chords of love.” 

When I do, I falter.  I feel alone.  I feel defeated.  Actually, inside I faint and hide my fear behind screens and excuses.  Profound fear that God will not come through. 

And faith shrivels up a thousand deaths as I let my circumstances condition my convictions about God.

I forget the mighty acts of God in my life.  His voice grows faint behind the thick wall of other’s opinions.  His favor gets lost in the sting of other’s betrayals.  I shove His truth into such a small box that I can’t find where I sat it down. 

I have been camped out in this dangerous wilderness of forgetfulness.  Lost.  I believed I had penetrated the deeps of the forest so no search and rescue could find me.   Yet…you can run from truth, but He will find you.

When He does, He will tell you what you need to remember.  What you must recall to get back on the path.  He will remind you of who you are, what He has done for you, and what He requires you to do.

His remembrances always speak a greater truth to our forgetfulness.  Always. 

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, proceed on your journey…’  Now, what does the Lord require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding for your good.  Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.  Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day…For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the LORD of lords, the great, the mighty, and awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.  He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.  So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.   You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.  He is your praise and He is your God, who has done great these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen”  (Deuteronomy 10:11-21).

Like a child, my heart shouts, “I know, I know, I know!”  And I do…but I forget. 

Thank you, LORD, for being my remembrance!  Help me to walk out of this foggy forest in the strength of Your truth.

Inevitabilities

Life often teaches us lessons we think we already know.

Somewhere along the line I learned that inevitabilities are threads in the seams of life.

Children grow up.

Feelings get hurt.

Bodies weaken and fail.

What I didn’t learn until today is that just because inevitabilities will always find us doesn’t mean that we are ever ready for them when they do. 

They always arrive too soon. 

Anticipation makes the pain of the inevitable no less profound.   We all know that someday we’re going to get *that* phone call, but when we do, our heart hurts in a way we didn’t think it could. 

And just like that, the seam painfully unravels, one stitch at a time, exposing those guarded, treasured things sewn tightly in the cuff:  Fondness, love, and the fear of having to say goodbye…but of course, it’s inevitable that someday we will.

As the seams unravel, what comfort there is in trusting the God who will meet us with His strength and grace.   Have you learned and know, inevitably God’s love will be greater still?

Rain

It rained today.  

Rain isn’t such a big deal in some parts of the country (like in Seattle where I grew up), but when it rains in Los Angeles, sensory perception goes into acute mode.  It awakens us to look at things differently.

Rain is a condition of paradox:  It cleanses, refreshes, and renews.  Yet, it messes things up.  There are mud puddles to be stepped in, dirt-streaked cars to be driven in, and lawn-laden doggy prints to be wiped from once clean floors. We know we need it, but we never really want it.  We love it and hate it.

It’s so much like my life right now.  The vibrancy of my faith is a daily washing of beauty, goodness, and truth by a Father who I know–really know–loves me.

Yet the context of life…well, it’s messy.  For the most part, I am immersed in far from perfect relationships, unmet expectations, and a whole lot of disappointment.  I’m frustrated with myself…and others.  I’m discouraged at other’s and my own resolve to be who we proclaim ourselves to be…and discouraged that I have so little grace for the authentic.

Stuck between the tread of my shoes is the mud of knowledge that God lets it be this way.  Today on this dark-skied, blustery, rain-filled day I am frustrated with God.  Frustrated that righteousness is not always rewarded…here.  Frustrated that love doesn’t always feel warm and fuzzy…here.  Frustrated that the groans of sin have to be so loud…here.  Frustrated that truth doesn’t always win the day…here.  Frustrated that for all my big thoughts about God, He seems so apparently small and quiet in so much of my life.

I can’t control any of these situations and I can’t understand why God doesn’t seem to be controlling them either.    Doesn’t He know how much I believe in His Sovereignty?  How much I affirm His providence?  How much I have attested to His faithfulness?

Ellen Charry in her book By the Renewing of Your Minds says that our theology should create virtue in us.  It should help us flourish better as the people God made us to be.  What does my frustration say about my true theology?  If my God is as big I proclaim then where is the fruit of virtue causing me to flourish in this storm?  Who or what is really bigger:  God or the storm?

I know that it won’t always be this way.  As quickly as the rain rolled in last night, it will roll out.  Withstanding today’s storm requires that I not forget just that:  It’s only today’s storm.  But God’s goodness, truth, and love are mine for an eternity.  So for tonight, I’ll leave the mud-laden boots at the porch and I will bathe my frustrations in God’s mercy and grace with the hope that tomorrow I might more virtuously flourish as the person God made me to be.

Shade

He who dwells in the shadow of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”             Psalm 91:1.

It’s been a hot week in Los Angeles.  The weather has been discomforting and the heat of relationships, health challenges, work strain, and life responsibilities has reached a new intensity. I am in need of shade.

Finding shade without shadows is a challenge.  As Christ-followers we are called to live as children of light.  We are to have nothing to do with darkness.  But let’s face it, when life is tough we all want to find a dark, little corner in which we can hide away.

I’ve been actively resisting the shadows of darkness for dwelling in the shade of Christ.

I don’t remember the origin anymore, but it is said that the essence of God is goodness, truth, and beauty. Yesterday this truth was called to mind in a conversation with a friend who is walking through a rough patch.  My comment to her was that in the intensity of tough times, we can recall God’s goodness, truth and beauty as a means of tuning up the strings of hope.

I believe this is what the psalmist had in mind when he penned Psalm 91.  Life is going to be tough. Our worship of God can easily get disrupted by life.  Thus, we are encouraged to ‘dwell’…to sit, abide, take comfort in God.  We can choose to find a dark corner in which to escape, or we choose to divert our eyes from the intensity of our circumstances to the immensity of God’s love.  We can recall what we know about Him,  consider His greatness and worth, and recount His magnificence.  As we do, the branches of His goodness, truth, and beauty spread out, enveloping us with His comforting shade.

May you, my friend, find yourself today lounging with a lemonade in hand, finding comfort and relief in the shade of God’s goodness, truth, and beauty!