It’s Not About Us

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

My second post after the hiatus.

Might as well get controversial.

This article is making the rounds. I’ve read it. More than once. Pondered the words. Considered the meaning behind and in the words. I’m doing that stereotypical INTJ thing of staring off into space, a blank expression (or an intense one, depending on your interpretation) on my face. Seeking to fit the piece into the larger, often confounding pattern that is Western Christianity.

Jen Hatmaker and I parted ways a long time ago. (You can read all about it in my review of her book For the Love, here and here). When she announced her affirmation of homosexual relationships as holy, I shrugged. Saw that one coming a mile away.

This here post today isn’t even about that, though, and that’s not even the primary or only reason why I generally choose to avoid partaking of her work. More important for me is her view and usage of Scripture and all that means in terms of theology and doctrine. For the record, I agree with Hatmaker when she points out that the Church has done an incredibly poor job of reaching out to LGBTQIA people. I am weary of the vilification and done with the idea that “their” sins are somehow “worse” than “ours.” I have friends within the LGBTQIA community (I know, people often say that, but it’s true) and I know how deeply alienating the nastiness is for them.

But, again, this post isn’t about that issue at all. (Nor is this post about the insanity that was the 2016 election and the part that Christians played in the circus, which she references and about which we are also in agreement).

This is about Good Friday. Holy Saturday. Easter.

Jesus. The Cross.

What it all means.

Hatmaker writes (emphasis hers),

I get the death part this year, the Good Friday part. All the memes and quips and quotes floating around the internet are falling on a numb heart. This year, I deeply experienced being on the wrong side of religion, and it was soul-crushing. I suffered the rejection, the fury, the distancing, the punishment, and sometimes worst of all, the silence. …

…this year, it all makes sense: the death, the anger, the man who never took his place in the machine. This day was lonely for Jesus. It was excruciating, physically and emotionally and spiritually. His people left him, even turned on him. God Himself hid his eyes. The sky went dark and life was extinguished. It was all so sad, so dead, so not yet resurrected. This was a day of tears and shock and loss and fear. …

…for those of you hunkered down on Good Friday, identifying with the loss of this day in agonizing ways, ways that you did not want to understand the cross, I am your sister this year. When too many things still feel dead and resurrection feels as unlikely and impossible as it must have on this day all those years ago, I can’t help but believe Jesus has his eye on us specifically. Who can better understand the cross than the man who chose it? Who better to hold us close in our loneliness than the man who was left to suffer all alone? Nobody, not one human being on this earth understands a dark Friday more than Jesus, well before anyone thought to put a “Good” in front of it.

Do you see what’s wrong with this picture?

I won’t deny Hatmaker or anyone else her pain and struggles. I don’t know what, exactly, life has been like for her since coming out on the “wrong side of religion.” I’m sure there have been very hard days. I’m sure that people have been incredibly mean, which is never right, no matter how strong the disagreement. I don’t doubt that she’s experienced confusion and heartbreak. (At the same time – and again this is where my INTJness reveals itself – I do wonder at the strength of a person’s convictions if they can be so shaken by negative responses. But that’s me; I don’t operate out of the heart).

But to identify with Jesus on the Cross?

That’s a step too far.

See, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter – it’s not about is.

Obviously our salvation is completely and utterly wrapped up in Jesus Christ and all that He accomplished. His death and resurrection was the plan – is the plan – the only way for us to be reconciled to and with God. Yet the story of those three days, indeed the entire narrative arc of Scripture, isn’t about us. We aren’t the central characters. It’s not a tale of humanity reaching out to God, but rather God reaching out to humanity. He is the mover, the shaker, the narrator, the director, the star. (This coming from an avowed Arminian. May my Calvinist brethren rejoice).

That crown of thorns, that flesh whipped to ribbons, those nails, that cross, the agonizing breaths and sputtered words, the blood-soaked linen perfumed with spices, that still and silent and dark tomb – we can’t identify with that. We cannot say, “Yes, I have experienced something akin to this. I understand.” Whatever pain or sorrow we experience is nothing compared to Christ, the God-Man, choosing to set aside His rightful glory. It is nothing compared to the suffering He experienced. Certainly we cannot even begin to imagine what it meant, how it felt, for Him to literally become sin.

Sin. Not loneliness, not abandonment, not suffering, not being rejected by the cool kids. Loneliness, abandonment and rejection are all results of sin, sure, but they aren’t the reason Jesus hung, suspended by hot, sticky metal pounded through His muscle and out the other side onto rough wood.

In no way am I accusing Hatmaker of equating herself with Jesus, nor am I commenting on her status before God. Not at all. Rather I am stating that Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter – it’s about Jesus. MaryMary sings in Something Big, “Jesus bled, Jesus died, Jesus took the fall – for all your wrong and all my wrong, Jesus paid it all.” As we reflect upon these events, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that they are meant to comfort us in sorrow.

They are meant to confront us with the heinous nature of our sin and drive us to our knees in reverence.

Let’s not cheapen the Atonement.

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Addendum: I realize that many, perhaps even most, will believe that I have read something into the words that aren’t there. I admit that the twist in perspective I find here is subtle, but it is nevertheless present. As always, you, dear reader, are quite free to disagree.

Photo credit: IV Horton

Observations on a Friday Evening

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Goosebumps rise on my forearms, competing for space among the freckles. Standing near the kitchen window, I peer through wood slats, moved to somehow find words for the indescribable. Nobody can capture the fleeting, never-repeated beauty of a cloudy sunset. Not writers, not painters. Not really. All we may attempt is a mediocre copy of a genius that lies beyond our reach.

And yet we keep stretching, hoping to grasp it.

The little hairs stand on the back of my neck in response to the chill. It is spring but not yet warm. Faded leaves, left behind in Autumn, blanketed in Winter, out of place now, cluster around the tree trunks. I imagine they are jealous of the tender buds on the limbs. A juxtaposition of death and life, a mingling of seasons.

A dance, the steps of which we never quite learn.

Nature can never be reduced to the clinical, the parts. We try to box it up. Contain it. Master it. Yet there is something beyond the mechanics. An echo, a calling. We study but long to peer beyond.

Palest of yellows. A tinge of orange. Fluff above shifts and shudders.

The dogs bark at nothing. One runs through the little door, plastic and metal banging. Disturbing the scene.

Reverie broken, I turn from the window. Back to the now.

This now – I don’t care for it, for here there are many questions. Foremost in my mind is whether I should even continue this writing thing. Wondering if I’m any good at it. If the hours I spend with the pen and the keys matter.

I have no answer and I do not look for your pity.

My eyes move back to the window and the distance. Light has faded. Nothing but clouds now, obscuring the first stars of night. My mind conjures up strains from “Somewhere Out There,” sung by the little immigrant mouse in the child’s movie. He looked. I look.

The kettle whistles. Time for a cup of something hot, a comfort in the unanswered.

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Image credit: Micah Hallahan

Blown Out

along-the-way-mlsgregg-com

Gentle Reader,

I have been so tired.

It’s been building for a few months.

I had not been able to figure out why.

Then, in a rush, I remembered –

Finished writing a non-fiction book about…you don’t need to know yet. Crafted a book proposal. Self-published a book of poetry. Ran a launch team. Became vegetarian. Took up (mostly) daily exercise. Had a partial hysterectomy. Led a small group. Helped run a women’s retreat. Spoke at a conference. Spent half the year blogging through Zephaniah. 

All of that on top of normal things like work and taking care of a home and being a wife, daughter, sister, friend.

No wonder.

Some people thrive on busy. I do not.

I’m taking a sabbatical.

Be back in the spring.

I’m sure this a blogging sin of some sort. No doubt I’ll see a big dip in stats. May even lose some of you, dear readers. I can’t care about that. My writing voice is roughly equivalent to the first day of strep throat, when you can hardly breathe, let alone speak. I need space and silence.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that. May God bless you.

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