the Passion is not pretty – an epistle

I am a sensitive person. I also have a visual memory. I have learned over the years that there are images and words spoken that will stay in my mind for a long time. As I have grown up, I have tried to limit certain intake that I knew would bother me.

I did not see “The Passion of the Christ” when it was released. I was thankful that someone had tried to make something that represented the story of Christ’s death and resurrection for all to see. I knew that I couldn’t watch it…it would be too real for me. And so I saw a couple pictures and realized I was probably right.

This year Lent came into my radar. Perhaps not for the first time, but the first time that I gave any thought to making it part of my spiritual life. And so after reading some very challenging posts by Margaret Feinberg in which she asked us to consider not only “to ask God what He’s calling you toward” but also “What do you want to lay hold of during Lent?

In some sense I had a good heart going in, but didn’t really know what it would look like. I have not been devoted in my reading of Scripture or of seeking what God is calling me towards in this specific 40 days that have been set apart. I have seen God challenging me in my pride, showing me my brokenness and bringing new life to scriptures I have seen previously. I am thankful that despite my unfaithfulness (as usual) he is faithful.

My church is a ‘church in a box’ which means we rent a property and upack and pack up church every Sunday. We have been doing this for 10 years or more. As a result we have had to be creative with our services, especially when days like Christmas Eve and Christmas lay on days we don’t have access to the school. So this year we are doing Easter a little differently, ‘Good Friday’ service will be this Sunday and ‘Easter Sunday’ will be on actual Easter Sunday.

as a means of getting our hearts ready to understand the horror and grace on Good Friday (the crucifixion of our Lord) a short video was shown in church. It made my stomach twist. I wanted to throw up. Every whip stroke on the back of the depiction of our Lord made my eyes well up with tears. The nail strikes and agony cries tore something deep within me and i realized that I had painted a picture that was somewhat more ‘pretty’ that the horror that took place that day. One of the images was something like this…

Passion Flogging-closeup-colored-web

and I wanted to turn away in horror. And i wondered, if i had been in the midst of those in the crowd, if I had been one of the followers at that time, if I would have turned away. If I would have abandoned my Saviour as what he went through was just ‘too much’ for me.

We have been reading through Genesis and exploring it in sermons for the past several months and its come alive in ways like never before. But the one thing that has most recently struck me is the story of the flood. It was created as such a fun, sanitized story growing up that the complete devastation of the World and God’s wrathful judgement upon the world were never something that were brought to light. Noah and his family being saved was grace, but that story is not all fun and games and brightly colored pictures. there is horror.

the same is true of the passion of Christ. While perhaps it wasn’t written in such ‘fun’ terms, it was certainly sanitized for those who are perhaps ‘faint of heart’. Very little blood, agony erased from his face, the destruction of his bodily form not found in too many depictions. And yet i wonder, was it people like me, who didn’t want to ‘see’ the true picture, turned away because it was just too horrible, that made a way for these depictions to be qualified as being true to the experience?

I gave up something for Lent. 40 days has been a long time. but 40 days was spent in the desert, without food and drink for the Lord. I am not sure the purpose of this time in the wilderness but i do know that his purpose in coming to earth was never far from His mind and as the time drew near, it was even more of a wrestling that his soul encountered. i can’t imagine the soul and body weakness that 40 days of fasting entails. i can’t imagine the depth of the agony and pain that his soul bore previous to the wrath of God being poured out on him for our sins. I can’t imagine that night in the garden where he was in such agony that his sweat turned to blood as he poured out his desire ‘that is there is another way, let it be. if not, they will be done’.

and i think about how ‘hard’ its been for me to give up what i have in life. How i’ve given in every now and again and turned my back on what i ‘gave up’. I haven’t pursued more of the Lord in this time, and I haven’t really sought what he’d have for me. and in the midst of this Lenten journey i’ve made it more of a ‘pretty’ and fun thing then the precursor to the cross that it is. And it took something very heart convicting and stomach churning to remind me of the cost. of the journey. of the days before this journey.

DSC_1346

Ann Voskamp has shard this image of a tool her family has to remind them of the journey of the cross. It lies in circular form with candles for each of the 40 days…and as the days progress the image of the Christ and his journey with the cross is moved closer to the center. Such a vivid reminder that this weight was on him, even in the 40 days as he faced the true testing of his humanity and spirit form.

yesterday I heard a song by Chris Tomlin called ‘White Flag’ and it was a rousing called to surrender all to Him. at the end there is a chorus chant that states ‘we lift the cross, lift it high’ and it struck me. Do we KNOW what this looks like? Do we understand the significance of the cross? of the suffering? of the complete agony suffered? the song was catchy, and I’m sure an amazing anthem of change in the hearts of many, but i wondered in the hype of singing such a song, if we truly understand (other than that one passion and tearfilled moment of singing) what that means. Do we even comprehend what taking up our cross looks like? what it might entail?

would it entail the change that the 40 days of Lent would turn into a lifetime of living changed…of a life always turned towards and revolving around the horror and the gift of the cross and what Christ accomplished in being THE sacrifice for our sins, the ONE AND ONLY complete means of satisfying our God’s wrath towards sin in the hearts of his created ones.

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4 thoughts on “the Passion is not pretty – an epistle

  1. beautiful thoughts from a beautiful heart, dear one:)

    i think in “blue like jazz” donald miller makes a point about how noah’s ark is not a children’s story and it really changed my viewpoint on that story. i’m finding as adults, we have to relearn the bible stories through grown up eyes and see their pain and their beauty in stronger, more powerful ways. i’m kind of musing on that for my blog tomorrow….but i’m blessed that lent is such a powerful experience for you this year, as it is for me:) happy to be following your journey…

  2. I have been out of the loop for quite a while so it was so lovely to come here tonight and read your words, friend. Deep reflection and meditation birthed these words and I do not read them lightly. You have touched upon many things that we don’t talk about, much less think about, but that are real and important. Thank you for doing it so thoughtfully and openly. I pray that as you continue to journey through Lent, your eyes and heart will be more opened to the Jesus that loves you so deeply.
    Grace and peace on your head, today, and always.

  3. All your processing here, all this reflection that comes from such a deep place, speaks to me. I just posted along these lines, and I felt I came late to the Lent table this year, in my heart, though I had ‘good intentions’ to be there all along the way. I so value and respect your honesty here: “I haven’t pursued more of the Lord in this time, and I haven’t really sought what he’d have for me. and in the midst of this Lenten journey i’ve made it more of a ‘pretty’ and fun thing then the precursor to the cross that it is.” And I confess, that has been me, too. It took re-watching The Passion this year, Saturday night, to bring this all home and awaken my heart to the reality of Easter. Thank you for sharing your heart, friend. It’s beautiful.

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