*Drawing by my daughter, Darla Taylor
When you’re raised in church and have heard the crucifixion and resurrection countless times from all four gospels, even memorizing parts of it, it’s easy to arrive at Easter with a “same ol’, same ol’” perspective. I usually ask God to show me something new–whether in the story itself or the way that it stirs my soul.
Yesterday after reading about the soldiers dividing up Jesus’ clothing and the humiliation that accompanied being bruised, beaten, naked, and mocked in front of the masses, my friend Melissa read an excerpt from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie and her sister Betsie suffered in a concentration camp during World War II. Corrie lived to write about the experience and God’s presence in it:
"Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.
"Sometimes I would slip the Bible from its little (sack) with hands that shook, so mysterious had it become to me. It was new; it had just been written. I marveled sometimes that the ink was dry...I had read a thousand times the story of Jesus' arrest--how soldiers had slapped Him, laughed at Him, flogged Him. Now such happenings had faces and voices.
"Fridays--the recurrent humiliation of medical inspection. The hospital corridor in which we waited was unheated and a fall chill had settled into the walls. Still we were forbidden even to wrap ourselves in our own arms, but had to maintain our erect, hands-at-sides position as we filed slowly past a phalanx of grinning guards.
"How there could have been any pleasure in the sight of these stick-thin legs and hunger-bloated stomachs I could not imagine. Surely there is no more wretched sight than the human body unloved and uncared for.
"Nor could I see the necessity for the complete undressing: when we finally reached the examining room a doctor looked down each throat, another--a dentist presumably--at our teeth, a third in between each finger. And that was all. We trooped again down the long, cold corridor and picked up our X-marked dresses at the door.
"But it was one of these mornings while we were waiting, shivering in the corridor, that yet another page in the Bible leapt into life for me.
"He hung naked on the cross.
"...The paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh--at the time itself, on that other Friday morning--there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now.
"'Betsie, they took His clothes too.'
"'Ahead of me I heard a little gasp. 'Oh, Corrie. And I never thanked Him…'
The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom
He hung naked on a cross. Voluntarily, He hung. With all my embarrassment, my shame, my nakedness, my failure, my sin; He hung. With all the power in the world to lower Himself and wipe out the mockers, He hung. Today, on Good Friday, I am struck that there was no reverence, no respect, no understanding that a bigger plan was in motion. There was chaos, devalued life, and nakedness.
Yet, Jesus wasn’t a victim of cruel, hardened soldiers and an angry people group, He was still the Almighty God with a plan. Easter's coming.
I was sitting in my discussion group at Bible Study, still a little distracted from a busy morning getting kids out the door. We were on the cusp of Sean changing jobs, I had a full week of projects, decisions, and the regular ins and outs of managing a household of seven. I had done my study, but a bit distractedly. My mind was already skipping ahead to the Costco trip I was planning that afternoon.
We were parked in John 10, the chapter about Jesus being the Good Shepherd. I tuned in as our group systematically answered the questions, “What would you conclude about Jesus and His identity from His words in John 10?” “What does Jesus give His sheep and why?”
Out of nowhere I was gut punched with a memory.
Hearing the questions out loud instantly transported me to another time I studied John, in this same place but seven years ago. Seven years ago I was living in a different town. I was in a different discussion group that met in a different room, but the set of questions was the same and that’s all it took to jar the memory. All year I’ve gone without thinking extensively about the study of John seven years ago…until the lesson on the Good Shepherd.
Seven years ago sucked. Everything was shaken. I had discovered hard things about my parent’s marriage and ugly things about their past. I felt like much of my childhood must have been a lie. I was trying to reconcile how to forgive the past when the past was bleeding all over the present. I was parenting three very small children while my own marriage had been drilled into the ground. I was stretched paying bills, stretched in the every day, with hard faith questions that needed answering. I was disoriented, defeated and beat up. I was curled up in my quiet time chair with my pile of regrets and “if only”s laid out on my lap. “Lord, I’m trying so hard to be faithful…why can’t I see you being faithful!?”
Just throwing myself out there a bit...
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