I woke up several times during the night last night. Normally, that’s wouldn’t be much to write about. But I woke up because I was excited. For dawn, and the celebration of an empty tomb.
A few years ago, I began practicing the observance of Ash Wednesday, a lenten discipline, the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and the Stations of the Cross or the Last Hours of Jesus on Good Friday. Some of my friends’ have tried to cheer me in the somber times, especially on Good Friday. “Sunday’s Coming” or other such comments weave their way towards me. Yes, I know how the story ends.
Yet last night at sundown, with the celebration of the Great Easter Vigil, I have never felt such joy. So much, I couldn’t sleep well. And today my stereo is blaring hymns of praise. I needed to live the story.
Difficult decisions. I’ve had to make my share of them. If I’m honest, they have a tendency to paralyze me. I don’t want to do the wrong thing. So I seek God’s guidance through prayer, scripture and wise counsel. Sometimes I even fast. And if it’s hard enough… I get stuck there. After all that without any clear direction from God, I feel abandoned like the little boy whose dad never shows up at his ball games.
But I’m coming to believe that in being silent, God is really saying “It’s up to you Bryan, I trust you.” I’m coming to cast off the image of God as the cosmic micro-manager of my life and embrace him as my loving father. After all, if God wanted to be my micro-manager, he certainly could’ve created me without free will.
My own father just wants the best for me, not for me to have a certain career or buy a certain house or marry a certain person. To be sure, he wants me to make wise decisions, yet he trusts that he’s raised me to do that. He wants me to be happy, yet he doesn’t define happiness for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I do still use prayer, wise counsel, fasting, and searching the scriptures to define that my motives are pure, seek alternatives and set a course. After that, if I’m still at a loss what to do, I’m coming to the conclusion that God made me with a free will and trusts that I will do the best I can. And if not, that I’ll learn from my mistake.
I do still make mistakes. But with humility I ask God to show me where I went wrong and how to repair the damage. It’s how he helps me grow.
Four years ago today, I changed the flag that I fly outside my home to the Gadsden flag. A little history for you: the Gadsden flag flew above navy ships during the revolutionary war and is considered one of the very first flags of our nation.
The change was a symbol of a change in myself, one which had changed my view of my world and nearly everything in it.
The freedoms we celebrate today are gone. We may be taxed for simply existing and NOT buying a product, imprisoned indefinitely without charge, be forced to testify against ourselves, and even targeted for assassination without so much as a trial in absentia. And the vast majority of people who champion the cause of these civil liberties are silent because their man is in the White House. I point the finger at myself too. I sat idly by as the former President, one I campaigned for, wiretapped American citizens without warrant and intervened in foreign affairs where history has shown we had no business being involved. I even defended those actions.
I began to repent of hypocrisy four years ago. I will no longer insist on my benefit at the expense of others, whether they be next door or around the world. I will no longer overlook bad in one area to glean the benefit of good elsewhere. I will understand that championing liberty sometimes means that others will do unsavory things with that liberty.
“5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where helay.” — Matthew 28:5-6
The central symbol of Christianity is the cross, as we identify with Christ’s suffering. But I wish there was a way to represent an empty tomb.
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. — John 19:28-29
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” — Matthew 5:6
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” —Matthew 27:46
Jesus is quoting King David from Psalm 22. I find myself saying these words myself, more often than I care to admit. I don’t think I’m alone. Did God really abandon Jesus in a moment of need? Did God really abandon King David, the man after his own heart? Does he abandon me?
My head (and my heart most of the time) says “I don’t think so”. I don’t think a loving father would abandon his son, and I happen to believe that my God is a loving father. I believe what happens to me is that I lose sight of God. I don’t feel his presence. For whatever reason. Could be my sin. Could be I’m not in touch with Him. Could be I’m not listening or looking.
I don’t think he abandoned Jesus either. I think Jesus was so fully human (and still fully God, the trinity is great mystery to me) in those moments, bearing the burden of all our sins, he lost sight of Him too.