The celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is settling somewhere new in my heart this year. I’ve always loved the tradition and liturgy surrounding the weeks before Easter. It’s a holiday of water-colored hope painting broad strokes of redemption over thin lives.
Spiritual battles seem to culminate during Holy Week as the antagonism of Satan mocks our walk through the Stations of the Cross. This year has been no different as I’ve watched friends lose loved ones and dealt with my own challenges, puny in the light of death.
As social media penned words of faith, posted serene pictures of crosses at sunset and dared us all to pass on gruesome depictions of a bloodied Christ as a sign of true belief, I felt a depth of contempt that surprised me. I’ve quietly changed my profile picture in previous years and couldn’t account for the shift in my feelings.
I wondered if voicing my doubts had fueled the feelings and even considered briefly that maybe I’d lost some faith. Maybe daring to believe with eyes wide open made for new travelling companions, Thomas or even Judas.
There’s something about loud, accompanied poetry that releases the pressure from my obnoxious thoughts so I turned up the new album from Needtobreathe, Rivers in the Wasteland. This CD captures the dim reality of life in a fractured world with driving melodies that wrap solaced hope around a soul.
The song Wasteland repeats the simple truth that if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31) and as the song dug into my heart, the massive celebration of Easter was broken down into the most personal understanding that God is for me.
That small change in my focus opened up new thoughts. Is it possible that our insistence of walking the way of the cross, complete with reenactments starring a beaten Christ, exploit the anguish of the Father?
We focus on the physical pain of Jesus to the point that we forget the agony and despair that lies in the un-sensationalized, seldom referenced, simple broken heart of the Father who loved us.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ symbolize our faith, but in the beginning was the word and the word was God and in him was life and light and the light shone in the darkness (John 1) and the reason there was a light at all was because we were created for communion with God.
When we tell the story of Adam and Eve breaking that communion in the garden, we focus on their shame but what about the depth God’s loss? What about his broken heart way back in the beginning?
The sacrifice of the cross is shocking and absolutely is essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the sacrifice of the Father sometimes gets lost as we glory, to some extent, in the gore of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection; hoping to convert unbelievers with shock and awe.
I have friends who are grieving right now, it’s a sacred time in their lives that deserves respect. I wonder if our Easter pageantry doesn’t distract us from the fact that God also continues to grieve as we make choices that separate us from him. As whole tribes of believers spit hatred at each other does he shake his head and mourn at our insistence of making our belief about us?
Really, if God’s heart broke so deeply because we were separated from him and if he would allow it to be broken to a greater degree as he watched the physical anguish of his son, shouldn’t we love with that same depth of passion?
Does he watch the rhetoric of Good Friday and the fanfare of Easter Sunday and wish that we’d remember instead the very intimate gift of his broken heart? Because that’s what necessitated the crucifixion of Christ in the first place.
It seems to me if we did, that we might all look more like him. We might worship with more humility and love, with deeper abandon.
My heart has changed this year. It’s smoother in a sandy sort of way. It’s been broken wide open and spilled all out and as it heals, I’m hoping that it looks a little more like the Father’s as I learn to love to the degree I have been loved.
Maybe I’ll feel differently as Easter rolls around next year, more like embracing the sorrow of the first day and engaging in the celebration of the third, but this year is off beat and I’m going to honor that.
My faith isn’t lost. I’m wondering if maybe I just found it.