Easter weekend always brings a sense of spring, good weather, celebration, family, and food. Alright, these days sometimes the weather is not all the greatest around. But Easter brings up thoughts of chocolate, hard boiled and dyed eggs, leg of lamb and family gatherings.
In the Christian church the focus is on Jesus, the cross, His sacrifice, His rising, and His love. In a time of celebration, the church has been lifting up Jesus every year for centuries for His acceptance of an experience that has gone down in history as one of the most profound acts of sacrificial love ever known to humankind.
I have been so contemplative recently, as I meditated on the cross and what Jesus endured that day on Calvary’s mountain. I let my mind wander to the scene in the garden when Jesus prayed, sweat and cried, with blood, and anguish. He knew He was going to be crucified. Did He want this? Who would? We know He did not in his words, “Father please take this cup from me.” Following those words were the bravest surrender that humankind has ever known. He said, “but if it be Your will Father…”
This whole scene brought me to the point of this message. Jesus was completely willing to move head on right into one of the most graphic death scenes one could ever imagine. His problem loomed before Him. His choices were completely His to make. He could have called upon the angels and He could have been saved from the fate that awaited Him. Instead, He chose to not side-step the issue, but to face it, embrace the lesson, the experience, and the outcome. With trust and faith, Jesus carried the cross He would soon die upon down a road that most would never have chosen to take. No one saved Him from this fate, not even Himself. Beaten down and torn from whipping and lashing, He still moved forward and faced what He had prayed to not have to do.
My point? As humans, it seems like most of us would do anything to avoid pain. Usually we turn to something that comforts us; a habit or diversion from the issue. We turn to food, money, shopping, drugs, alcohol, sex, and the list goes on. We like to do anything that will take the sting out of what we see ahead of us. Instead of facing it head on, we seek to dull our senses, take on the wound, and forsake the healing or “rising”. We forget that pain is a part of life. We forget the lesson from the cross that pain comes before the rising and there is no shortcut, and nothing that can dull our senses enough to change this truth.
How many of us can think back and know for sure had we faced our issues head on without trying to divert from the problem, we would have come through with healing to our hearts and the rising would have come afterward? The honest truth is the only way to our personal rising is to face every problem, every pain, and every situation, head on with dignity. Our words should be, “If it be Your will Father…” The reality is without facing and walking through the painful part, there is no healing. We want to not “feel”. Since when did feeling become so hard? It’s not pleasant for sure, but the rewards are great.
I thought about the death of my own son. My mind went back in time to the days, nights, and lonely moments in my own garden of anguish. For me, there was no sudden healing, no escape, no shortcut. I did not deaden my pain with alcohol, drugs, food, or anything else. Honestly, there would be nothing that could help me or make me feel any better. There was no side stepping the pain. It just “was”, and sometimes still “is”. When others want to know how I survived the loss of my 20 year old son, my answer always has to be, “I faced it head on with God and God alone”. It was the only way I knew I could survive with some form of wholeness left in tact.
As I continued to meditate this week, I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In days gone by, I wondered how she survived watching her son die. Now I know. She was right there, front and center. She faced the pain head on and when it was over, she privately processed the pain. There was no side stepping, and no numbing the feeling or senses. Only she could have been chosen for the part she played in the most dramatic death scene one could imagine. She survived afterward, and so did I. Was life the same? Of course not, it had dramatically changed forever.
The lesson is there, in the message of the cross. Facing our greatest fears and greatest pain with dignity, faith, and determination is the only way to heal from anything. There is no side stepping this truth. The outcome might not be known to us. We have to take the steps down the road, just as Jesus did toward Calvary. We have to carry our load, but ironically it’s the only way our load can ever be taken from us or off of us. The burden is lighter when we understand there is a reason. The task is endurable when we remember the pain always has to be endured before we rise. No exception. Its truth.
Loving you from here,
Dr. Rev Jenine Marie Howry