Husband's birthday is today - on Good Friday.
It's been interesting, this paradox. Celebrating the man I love's birthday on the day I remember Christ dying.
Last night, at the end of the Maundy Thursday service, they ceremoniously stripped the altar as Pastor sang, in the same haunting melody as Ash Wednesday's Psalm 51, Psalm 22. And the ladies in prim and beautiful dresses, white gloves on their hands especially for this, took the candles, the cup and plate we had just used for the Lord's Supper, the altar cloths - they took everything off as the sanctuary lights turned off. A firm lump rose in my throat and tears rolled down.
It has now begun, I felt deep in my bones. We enter the space of suffering and sadness and the why's and how-did-this-happen's. We hear Jesus' words, "Remember me" and as Good Friday fades to evening we think about him beseeching his Father, "My God, why have You forsaken me?"
Yesterday as I stood around the enormous cross which stands on a neighbor's land here in town, hand-in-hand with other believers wanting to usher God into the moment, wanting to thank God for the gift of His Son, wanting to pray for the church and everyone on this earth, I looked up as the sun shone on the stained wood, the two nails holding the pieces together - large nails - and I realized I had never been this close to such a cross. I could feel its pulse. I could feel its story of the Cross long ago.
The Pastor who led the prayer mentioned something that threw me for a headspin. He said that no one has ever or will ever suffer as much as Jesus did on that cross. Things certainly fell into perspective.
I love Good Friday because it gives me time to truly reflect on all Christ has done for me.
If I had it my way I'd have the entire day to just sit in the sun and read God's Word and journal and sing.
As it turns out, God had different plans for me this Good Friday.
I tried to make Husband's Good Friday Birthday an enjoyable one. I managed to handle the squabbles between 9 yr old Miss G and 6 yr old Mr. A. - they are getting at each other's throats more and more. I did not yell at all; I chose grace over anger.
Husband came home to presents and streamers. We had a good time.
Then the kids went off in different directions and I sat down to blog.
And in that time, while Husband takes a much-deserved nap, Miss G and Mr. A have come in three times declaring war and tattling on each other.
I have handled it all, so far, without yelling.
Then Miss G, who is ripening in opinions and attitude, announces that she can't help but hit her brother; she just gets so mad that she can't control it.
Oh, we've been through this before, child. I've been teaching you an emotional vocabulary since I met you at age four and a half. I gave you that Dora squeezie ball back then to hold when anger filled you to the brim and then we transitioned to a feelings poster and now, here we are in present day, with me asking you about your day and you releasing emotion after emotion.
So how did we get to today - how, apparently, it is okay for you to wallop your brother because you can't control it and oh, I just don't understand it and you just can't explain it, and you spin around in a huff and scream at me.
My heart pierces and I feel a sharp ache. I'm losing my little girl.
I calmly tell her that she has every ability to control her anger. She knows this. But she will not believe it. She sees her sister making excuses and falling into the victim time and time again and I worry for all of them, all of these kids who have seen such trauma and such suffering and I wonder if I can ever lead them to Jesus which makes me think
maybe Jesus needs to lead them to Jesus.
I tell Miss G that I love her and I know she knows, though it's hard, she can choose not to hit or fight.
And I leave her room because I can see it is getting to be information-overload and I close the door behind her, feeling her seething anger, hearing the bursts of tears beginning.
And I can't do much but pray.
I want this Good Friday to be good.
I want our family to love each other and for us to get along.
Can't they see that?
Don't they know what this day means? What Christ did for them?
There is grace for them, I hear in my head. And I call you to show them such grace.
Oh God, it is so hard. I want to yell instead of love. I want to cry instead of pray.
But it is in my control, isn't it. Praying instead of crying. Loving instead of yelling. Just like she can choose not to hit I can choose not to sink into despair.
Hold me up, Lord. I've been pondering how we can hold you up on the cross; I think, secretly, I've been wondering if there could have been anything we could have done to save you from such suffering.
But I remember you are God-Man and you chose this, you knew this would happen. It is written...
You have not asked me to save you, Lord. Do I really think that? Is that why Good Friday pierces me so much this year? How mistaken I am.
You have called me to serve others. You've called me to serve these children. And I try, Lord, I try.
So what if it is about the paradox? A birthday on Christ's death day. Teaching her not to yell when I want to scream in despair. Running to you and proclaiming my need of you the day when you were nailed to the worst death imaginable.
This season is all paradox, upside-down. Then again, so is the Kingdom of God.
We are called to love the least of us; taught that you loved us when we were yet sinners; picked up time and time again if we just call out to you.
The paradox of this season is not lost on me.
The hard which can hurt can be the biggest blessing.
But the blessing might not come right away.
Miss G won't walk out of her room and tell me, "I get it now. Thank you so much for explaining it. I understand and I love you so much for leading me to the Lord."
Mr. A won't open his door with a big smile and say, "whining and tattling is so beyond me."
Miss A, the eldest, won't walk upstairs and hug me with tears, thanking me for loving her despite her hating me.
The hard which can hurt and then turn blessing-like might come years later - or even wait until eternity in Heaven.
What I know, Lord, is that you watch us all. You promise each of us eternal life in return for giving our life to you. And for all that you've done - in life and in death - how you conquered death - how you gave us hope in the darkest hours - after all that you've done, I'm going to take your paradox and hold it in my hand, drink from it like a pool of living water, and keep on moving through this life.
Once again, I seem to be living this stuff out so much more than in years past. It gets harder, but I know, because of you, Lord, I grow stronger.