Holy week is my favorite week of the year. I’ve spent nearly a lifetime in ministry and service of some sort, yet stepped away from all that once the pandemic arrived. So I’m still a little unsure of what to do with myself this Easter weekend beyond assembling Easter baskets, prepping menu items, and redoing my manicure. Amid what would normally be the hustle and bustle of music preparation and finding just the right surprises for Easter baskets (this year it’s books for all my little readers) this is the week where my faith finds special comfort. The weight of God’s sacrifice for me – for all of us – is ever-present in my life and never more so than in these few days between the grave and the sky. Gratitude abounds, and leaks right out of my face, even right now as I write this.
I can meaningfully grasp a little insight to each player in the Easter story – Jesus’ disciples’ hope and confusion, Judas’s self-serving choices and his unbearable guilt, Peter’s good intentions and lousy follow-through, Pontius Pilate’s desire to wash his hands of the whole thing, God’s shaking of the earth, the thief’s final belief in a Savior, Jesus’ surrender to his Father’s will, and Mary’s heart breaking at the foot of the cross.
Perhaps it is Mary I understand most.
Like Mary, I have held my son and gazed at his beautiful face as he died. His last breath as precious a whisper as his first. Every fiber of my being aching to bring life back into every tiny ounce of his.
When I cannot understand why God did not save my son, when my soul cries out in sadness, when my mind spins in circles searching for meaning: it’s in those moments of desperation I can hear His voice most clearly.
Not an actual voice. (Although some people do hear him like that.)
For me it is a weight, a physical feeling, an unmistakable pressing on my chest. Like if I breathe deep enough I will inhale all of God. It’s a presence that wakes me up in the middle of the night and drags words out of my heart and onto a page. That’s how I “hear” God.
When I despair, I hear Him say “I understand your pain. I have felt it myself.”
God too watched his son take his final breath. God watched as the world turned on the most remarkable man to ever walk the earth. God watched as they mocked him, abused him, and cast him aside, even as he laid down his own life in exchange for theirs.
He did this so we would never again feel separated, or broken, or alone.
I believe one day I will see my son again, where he is already whole and perfect, and Jesus will be there to hand him to me. I will be whole there again too, and so will you.
But what do I do here?
What do I do here where I still am, on this side of heaven? In the Good Friday seasons of my life when all seems dark, what do I do with the separation and brokenness and loneliness I feel?
God’s power to raise the dead is not limited to Jesus on Easter morning. God can raise whatever is dying in my life.
Sometimes with hope, prayer, and belief, He mends what’s broken.
Sometimes He doesn’t.
Those moments are where the miracles happen. Because even if God doesn’t mend what’s broken, his unfailing promise is to mend you in the process.
This is where the spirituality wheels fall off for lots of people: when God doesn’t deliver. Believe me, I get it. I have had two critical moments in my faith where I had to decide if this God thing was worth sticking around for. Because it certainly didn’t feel like He was “for” me at all.
But the truth is: His purpose has always been to restore us – our hearts, our marriages, our families. He will gather the broken pieces of the life we’ve shattered (or what’s been broken for us) and patch the holes. He is in the business of miracles, yet more times than not, they’re not the miracles we thought we were asking for.
Whatever miracle you hope for, ask. Throw Him everything you’ve got. He knows what you’re thinking anyway, and there’s no need to dress up a prayer with fancy words. Be mad. He’s big enough to take it and gentle enough to listen. He can hold every bit of your heartache, rage, joy, confusion, and even doubt.
It never occurred to me that God wouldn’t spare my son. It never occurred to me that He wouldn’t fix my marriage the way I thought He should. These – so far – have been those critical points at which I almost bailed out of my faith.
What I’ve learned is I can’t give up on God when He won’t make the fix I’m hoping for. Because the main thing he’s fixing is me. I don’t have to like it, and I don’t even have to like him in the process. But if I want to have hope for the victory, I have to let go and simply let him work.
This is the paradox of God: that He is expansive as all creation, yet small enough to inhabit my 1 pound, 12 ounce miracle baby boy.
Mighty enough to part the oceans but tender enough to weep for the people he came to save.
Perfect enough to save himself from pain yet compassionate enough to feel it all for me.
This Holy week is a reminder to bring to the foot of the cross all the heartbreak of my loss, confusion, disappointment, anger, and loneliness, knowing with certainty that God is still promising to mend it all.
And if he doesn’t? Chances are He’s preparing to unveil an even greater miracle in you.
This is the hope that Good Friday brings to every longing heart.
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies,
Related: He is Not Here
Related: Breaking Plates
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel (easy and mind-blowing account of the physical evidence of the crucifixion)