Doesn’t it always work out that way?

Somehow, it has just been one of those weeks.  Some things were out of my hands – external forces creating extremely difficult and frustrating situations.  Some things were completely my responsibility – my internal response to adversity, my frustration at my lack of Christ-likeness, my guilt at venting my hurt on those closest to my heart.

I don’t want to over-spiritualize things here, but it is very interesting that the last couple of days have led me, quite literally, back to the cross.  I don’t want to be one of those jaded ministry professionals who looks at the cross as just another tool of the trade, a familiar company logo.  It frightens me that my heart, when left unchecked, seems to drift in that direction.

For Good Friday, our youth group had a night of interactive prayer stations, each one centered around a different aspect of the cross and Jesus’ crucifixion.  At a station called “Bitterness” we tasted a bit of vinegar, just as Jesus drank the vinegar after declaring His thirst from the cross.  There, we experienced a small taste of the bitterness of sin – the brokenness it has wrought upon the world, the shock it causes when we see its ugliness within us, the distance it creates between us and God (and between one another).

I didn’t want this to be a guilt trip.  That’s usually not a worthwhile journey.  But sometimes, in order to experience the uplifting victory of Easter, we need to go through the depths of Good Friday.  At least, I know that I must. The cross puts my life back into perspective.  At the cross, I see more than just the devastating effects of sinful depravity or the immeasurable love of Christ who bore the consequences of that sin.  I still can’t get my head around it fully, but I am starting to see the cross as a place where God is putting the world back in order.  The way things are meant to be.  Something that we dare not speak aloud (maybe fearing that we would sound foolish or naive for even hoping such a thing).  And yet, at the cross, I see God restoring our broken world.

One of my students sent me an email this morning that, in a way, set me on the right track.  During Passion Week, our church has been having a special round of early morning prayer meetings.  Well, she had been meaning to attend all week but, because of a number of different circumstances, she had not been able to come out until this morning.  So, there she is at her car, getting ready to leave the house at 5:00 am (yes, 5 o’clock in the morning) when she notices that her stereo is missing.  Worse, the trunk is open and also missing are fifty dollars worth of fundraising chocolate and a gift for a friend.

Here’s the amazing thing: Instead of shaking her fist to the still-darkened sky and cursing God for her misfortune (after all, hadn’t she gone above and beyond the call of duty by seeking Him first thing in the not-quite-morning?), she decided that she would still go to church to pray.  And she was actually thankful — not in a masochistic, self-flagellating kind of way, but with the kind of gratitude that usually comes with many more years of walking with God.   First, she wrote, she was thankful for the opportunity to start her day in prayer because, otherwise, her day really would have been ruined.  And, beyond that, she took this as an opportunity not to run from God but to run to Him and trust Him through difficulty.

May God bless your journey to Easter with wonder, gratitude and joy.