Friday Good

Today I rolled out of bed, climbed from the loft and hurried to get ready in twenty minutes. I burnt an egg, forgot my Bible, and brushed my teeth while texting E apologies that I was running late, even though it was my appointment to which I was late. I hardly remembered as I slid my macbook into the bright timbuktu bag, I hardly realized it was a day other than Friday. I only thought once, in a momentary glance at my Bible, splayed out on the coffee table to pages in Isaiah, I barely remembered in that instant that this Friday was more than just the last day of Spring Break and the day that Ethan’s parents would be in town.

Twenty minutes isn’t time to contemplate Good Friday.

We drove through construction, always Colorado spends the time between winter snows under construction. Like some bizarre metaphor for life: that we’re always under process, except when ice and frozen earth bring us to grinding halt. But even then, with the water in the grooves of the road, melting and freezing with each day’s cycle, even then there is process and change; even if we don’t see it until the cracks have spread to wide gaping holes.

I lay on the table at the chiropractor, wincing beneath the hands of massage and adjustment. My knee stretches out and back in, and when he’s pushing on a certain point in the muscle I can feel the pain radiate to both ends of my leg, and he’s shaking his head that I want to go rock climbing today. My body is broken, and I want to do what? But he sighs and gives me permission, says it won’t help but it probably won’t make things worse.

An old friend, one who has helped immeasurably with Ethan’s business start, texted E this morning while we were waiting through that construction zone. Something about writing a reference and at the end of his cheery morning message, left a little wish: Good Friday to you. But there was hardly time to think of that when we were driving me to work, and shuttling E off to his own last day at a lingering worksite that seems to push back with everything he does.

I came in to work and found an email where I was graciously dragged over hot coals. Sometimes, when they’re being polite, the anger is almost more severe, the disappointment more stinging. And apparently the office is closing early today, though no one told me and my hours are all over the place for this month’s paycheck, this month’s survival. Why are we closing early?

Good Friday.

Because today is the day that Jesus died. The day that he — God come down among us — let himself be stripped, broken, crushed and crucified. Last week he was riding in, prophetic statements abounding and triumph seeming close at hand. Tonight, at Tenebrae, he’ll not make a noise as he goes to the slaughter, like the sheep they killed each Passover: quiet, calm, resolute and sure. In darkness and shadows we’ll remember the one who took on fallen humanity, took on my broken body, my harried pace, my unkempt sin and put it to death with the piercing of his hands, and torn back, crushed side and bloodied head. And in his death he took on the curse: the bold rebellion of sin within humanity and the bruised earth suffering beneath, fighting back at you and me, even as we fight amongst ourselves.

Because Jesus came, came to do this act of love. Came to take me on, broken and angry. Came to walk at Ethan’s side, tired and frustrated. Came to walk among us, know us, reveal the One to us, and then in the most unexpected act in history: came to fling out his arms, take on all our mess and ruined humanity, and in his great, bloody embrace, came to take it all away.

Thus says your Lord, the LORD, even your God Who contends for His people, “Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling, The chalice of My anger; You will never drink it again.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living,
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

My brokenness, forever under repair, my fallen nature evidenced in a body that so easily falls apart, the sin that makes me rush instead of wait, wait on the Lord, those things for which I am due much, much more than strained knees and abrasive emails, for that he took on flesh and carried away the cup of wrath: from me, from the nations, from the earth.

All this on a Friday we so desperately and hopefully call Good.

 

Advertisements

dedication of various sorts

Recently, while starting a new textbook I read through the preface and discovered the book had been dedicated to a friend of mine. She’s a beautiful sweet woman who’s getting married in a few months and I have the privilege to have her dad as a seminary instructor. She has been encouraging and patient and kind with me, excited about my life and my hopes in a way I’ve rarely had with female friends. Needless to say, I read the lines of dedication and nearly burst into tears in my office.

Needless to say, it’s been a long week. It’s been a week of tears and exhaustion and late nights with dinner at 930pm on more than one occasion. There’s been enough discouragement and existential theological crises to go around the seminary and back again. And I’m not even referring to midterms.

E has been on a deadline. This, of course, is nothing terribly new. We live on deadlines, our culture thrives on them as markers of achievement, accomplishment and success — even personal value and worth. I had deadlines too: papers, midterms, scholarship apps, taxes. But there was something in these lines, these boundary markers this week that made it harder than usual to push ahead and “keep up the good work.” Maybe it’s that in some of our life we’ve been over the deadline lately, in a way that nagged at security, value and worth. Maybe it’s that lent and penitence and realizing sin before the looming cross has just gotten to us.

To be honest, I wish it was the second option; that my sense of sin and unrighteousness, that my failure to to be conformed to the One in whose image I’m created was the reason for the tears in my office.

I cried on Monday because in a few minutes spent on social networking websites I felt undermined, cast aside, forgotten and unnecessary. I almost cried today because of the beauty in seeing my friend be so lavishly loved by her father so as to be remembered in words that many hundreds of people will read — to have work that took years of formation, challenge and perseverance dedicated to her sweet smile and progression from daughter-child to daughter-woman.

This week, I thought about giving up so many things for fear of failure, rejection and wavering purpose. Last week I heard Ethan do the same as he stood in my kitchen and said that work was doing him in, that everything was going wrong and wondering where is God in this? We’re trying so hard, striving, working, scrambling and serving. We’re on deadlines, with plates too full and cups too empty.

But then, last week, on the first day of Spring, the sky clouded over and I felt like the world was slowing down, coming to a halt; and we were finally starting to catch up to the spinning axis. And after class I read that “God was so much, and so intimately concerned with the destiny of man (and precisely with the destiny of every one of ‘the little ones’) as to intervene in person in the chaos and misery of the lost life.” Like the father dedicating his book and work and time to my friend, dedicating the project that had consumed so much of his very life, this is how God is: coming down, kenosis and self humiliation to walk alongside little Ethan and me in the midst of ruined projects, grammatically incorrect papers and mounting bills.

So we’re holding these two things in hand: that God is good and that life right now is hard.

But what if we’re not to hold those in separate hands, but pull them together and realize they aren’t so incompatible as they seemed at first glance?Jean Calvin placed election in such a position within his Institutes to comfort us and give assurance that amidst the travails of life in a fallen world we are saved, called, and promised such vindication beyond the grave that this will seem small and of no account. Nothing separates us from the love of God, even when it feels as if everything separates us from the love of God. And thus we are renewed, restored with value and worth that draws on being created by such a great and gracious Lover, given worth by being held tightly and close despite the mess of this thing that we call life. And we’re given back our purpose, we’re given back our heart to carry on — not because we are striving, but because we are already accepted, known and loved.

Not meeting deadlines or making grades or getting published. Just walking with Him, growing in trust, learning what it means to be like him as we learn who he even is in the first place and then giving all that back to him as glorious praise.

This week, by God’s grace, I’m busy with papers and reading and catching up on day to day work after midterms. It is grace to be so occupied  because Ethan is busy and I’m hardly seeing him but for late night dinners full of exhausted words and tired hands propping up heads and slumped shoulders. I’ve had a few nominal fits of tears, always restricted by the workload before me and the very energy it would take to allow for salty tears.

And somehow, we’re choosing, or learning to choose or choosing to learn that God is here, alongside, walking and speaking and listening. He is good when life is hard. We’re saying thanks for work, pushing control from our own hands and refraining from forcing God to meet our expectations. We’ve come into Holy Week when Jesus was crucified not only for sins but for failing to meet the expectations of those in Jerusalem. What are my expectations? That life should be easy? That work would be life giving despite the curse and hardened ground? That somehow choosing Jesus meant choosing life abundant in terms of the American dream? Are these my expectations of Jesus as saviour messiah? And how must that be recalibrated?

How can I see God, who like my friend’s father, has lavished love and time and effort in order to serve me? to bless me in ways I so quickly fail to recall? And in the midst of remembering his love, his faithfulness, his hesed and hoping in his name, his character rather than circumstance, how must I remember this:

that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We’re exhausted yes, but not ruled or governed in worth, value or purpose by the deadlines and measurements of society. We are governed and given worth by the love of the One who made all things, sustains all things and brings all things to completion.

Bruised Knees and Joy

Last week, while running with one of my students, we decided to try out sprinting. We’re “training” for a race which means we’re trying to get my short little legs to run faster. After a seven month hiatus from running at all, asking these stubby appendages to do anything quickly is quite an endeavor. But it was cold and grey, the ground still frozen from the latest snow, so we marked the start and with the end in sight we began to sprint.

Three steps. I made it three steps before I yelped and cursed like a sailor and stopped. My knee had torqued to the side and I was bent double. But the pain faded, and the poor, tough kid mentality of my college years took over and I went back to jogging. Three miles later we’d done some decent sprints and I went off to meet with my own mentor.

Today, a week later, I’m wearing a brace and I had to gimp my way down the stairs to the car this morning. I’m just thankful I didn’t volunteer to walk to seminary today.*

This morning a dear friend hugged me and it felt like I might burst into tears when I stood up to return her embrace — the pain is worse when I go from sitting to standing, from bent to straight. She listened to what had happened and then said with her sweet smile:

This is all in his plan, it doesn’t surprise Him. Now, your work is to learn to see the plan, and even when you don’t you’re to trust.

Trust. Work to trust.

I’m to work out salvation in this day, this pain, the grinding anxiety that there’s something seriously wrong with my knee — something bound to cost money that I don’t have and time I’m unwilling to give up. But this is it, this is the work of the believer:

to look down at my knee, hidden in black elastic band and say, this is good. This the opportunity to trust, to wait more and hurry less, to be thankful for bodies that do work and pray for those that don’t.

It isn’t bruised, it isn’t swollen and it’s probably only a muscle sprain because it feels better when I’m moving. But I can’t run, I can’t train for the race, I can’t go up and downstairs with ease, I can’t bend at the oven or crouch with children. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

But I can choose to see God’s goodness in making bodies that work, in sustaining my knee from sliding all the way out of joint in the frozen cold. I can choose to trust that even if I have to see a doctor, God will provide a way because he knows my needs.

And you see — there it is — learning to trust in God’s character (provision, care, knowledge, sovereignty) rather than the situation in which I’ve found myself. This is the work of a believer: to trust God (and how do you trust if you don’t know Him?) and then to go out and live a life that speaks of such deep trust.

_______________________
*on a sidenote, please don’t worry about my knee! We’re pretty sure it’s only a minor muscle issue that just needs rest and some extra support when I do take up running again (and no, that won’t be this week, but hopefully soon).

Absence

Hello readers, followers, friends.

I’m going to be absent for a couple of weeks (you may have noticed the lack of posting last week). I’m in the midst of midterms, massive paper writing, youth group, negotiating a 5k with my injured knee and — oh yeah — that whole social life thing (which is quickly disappearing).

I’m behind in three of my three (!) classes and stupidly picked up some extra work hours. I think we can safely call the accumulating pile of used tissues in the bathroom trash a stress cold. Thanks for understanding while I disappear from the blogosphere, from twitter and everywhere else.

But I’ll return, never fear. Hopefully after next week, but I can’t guarantee. In the meantime, between midterms, papers on Pannenberg and running on icy, half shoveled paths, I’ll be musing on a theology of work, center set theory and some Old Testament ethics. Which is to say, I’ll be back, and hopefully have something worth reading.

again, thanks for understanding.

grace and peace.