There's no point in anything we do as followers of Jesus - not to the extent that we exclusively follow Jesus - if the Easter story isn't true.
We forget that, sometimes. We sing about Jesus and preach about Jesus and look to the Bible for guidance, those of us who have tacked his name onto our identity. But we don't always remember the gritty, nastier part.
My friend Jerimy was reduced to tears this morning. He said, "I can't find a word. I don't know. I've just been thinking about it all week..."
I said, "You seem undone."
He nodded and walked out the door.
The truth is not pretty. It's not some sentimental, glorious operatic piece of cinema. It's ugly and vicious, painful and bloody. Tortuous, and true. Some 2000 years hence, we scoot past the nasty part into Easter eggs and new clothes and high attendance Sunday. Who wants to willingly sink into sorrow? Who chooses to go to the hard places?
/ / /
I'm a follower of Jesus, and most of the time my identity fuses with my job and my passion and my healing and a fascination with the way God has interacted with humanity. I shy away from absolutes, save a few, and I don't believe disrespect of others honors God or the people He created. I cringe at most of what Christian culture offers, though that's probably a pride issue, truth be told.
I believe there is a great mystery to this life.
And I believe that Jesus told the truth.
We read that he lived, and died, and came back to life. We read that many years prior to his existence, prophecy indicated the way that he would live - and die - in uncanny detail.
It's there for the taking; or not. It can certainly be explained away, if you so desire; we're all capable of spiritual gymnastics that suit our current situation, in either direction...
But here's what I know today; in spite of the mess we seem to have made of the mandate to love God and love people, in spite of the broken things that will not be repaired in this life, regardless of the lack of respect and even spiteful disdain that comes my way from those who have rejected Jesus as the Christ (quite often with good reason), in spite of how easy it seems, these days, to set aside faith in God and lean hard into a good life for the sake of a good life - in spite of all this, I'm sticking with this identity that I have chosen.
Because past the politics and organized religion and issues and side and songs - beyond it all, there was a man named Jesus.
I believe it. And the most powerful part of the story is the one we re-learn this week; that he willingly went to the hard places, and he proclaimed love every step of the way.
Don't take it for granted; don't think you already know the story. Pick up the book and read it again, the tale of his last few days. Consider what it meant for a man to do what he did, to sink into the sorrow and choose to bear the physical abuse.
What do we do with that truth?
/ / /
In my most recent blog post, I wrote about my "issue"; something that I kept hidden, a thing that plagued me and bothered me. I wrote:
"I wonder if my situation makes you think of something similar in your own life. Because I wager that every one of us could be in a different place if we were willing to make a sacrifice."
And I confess, I knew I might be stirring up trouble. Just a bit. Or at least, stirring up truth. Because so many of you contacted me, privately, to hint at your own issue.
A few brave souls came right out and said it, but most of you - like me - keep it hidden.
A day after that post went up, I felt a bit disingenuous. Because, honestly, my thing is not really as dramatic as you might think. You can find out what it is here - you might be disappointed, and the music is incredibly annoying. But that's the truth - that's my hidden issue.
(At least the one I want to talk about today.)
You can be mad at me or want to kick me, because you probably thought it was something more. I'm sure it feels anticlimactic.
But let's be honest: It's the little things, all the way around. For me, this is an issue that I know how to fix; it requires denying my appetite, since it's triggered by stress and by what I eat.
Self-discipline, healthy living, mediation, denying myself the things I want or "need" or "deserve" in order to live without the daily pain - that's all it takes.
But who chooses to go to the hard places, when we can gorge ourselves on what's easy to reach, and pay the price later?
You may think it ridiculous, but I'm telling you; spiritual lessons can be found everywhere, because we are spiritual beings, and everything is connected. Thinking through this - writing about this, and confronting some truths about my choices and my willingness to rationalize everything; this is the thing that is drawing me closer to Christ in this Holy Week.
Because love him or disdain him, believe it or write it off - Jesus did do the hard thing, all those years ago. He suffered, for a greater good to which he ascribed great worth. In the translation to my life, here and now, that matters.
And centered within is the cord that tethers me to faith in Christ.