I was about to exit the sanctuary after the Easter event was over when a woman came running up to me in a frenzy, “Don’t leave without your gift!” Then she handed it to me and scurried off to catch another woman who had apparently forgotten hers too.
Since the mood for the women-only event was a warm, cozy and intimate time of celebrating Jesus’ life, I expected the usual gift of a nice-smelling candle or hand-crafted journal. Instead, I held in my hand something I had never received before in my life: a rusty old nail.
I love Easter because it’s a time of remembering what Jesus did on the cross so that we could enjoy abundant and eternal life with God. We know that He had to die a brutal death on the cross, but often it seems we focus our remembrance on the good that came from it.
But when that nail hit my hand, a deep revelation simultaneously hit my heart anew: Jesus suffered. Terribly.
I walked out to my car and sat there like a stone-faced statue unable to move. As I gripped the rough edges of the nail, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind, this nail pierced through His body. Jesus’ death was no longer a testimony found in the Gospel accounts that I could proclaim to strangers in the street, but it was something I was holding onto. A tangible thing. I even traced the center of my palm with its pointed tip, imagining what it might have been like, felt like, tasted like to be Him– naked and nailed to that wooden cross.
Before I knew it, tears were flowing down my face. Compassion and empathy welled up in my heart. There I sat in the empty parking lot alone, weeping for my sweet Jesus.
When was the last time you wept for Jesus?
I couldn’t remember the last time I had, but something about it felt good. Allowing ourselves to connect emotionally with the events that make up the foundation of our faith can be a powerful thing. It makes way for the knowledge stored up in our heads to rush like a waterfall to the softened, vulnerable walls of our hearts. It’s not emotionalism. It’s going from knowing about God to experiencing Him personally.
Have you experienced God personally in the last week? Month? Year? Decade?
It’s never too late. The Author and Creator of our souls is waiting with open arms just around the corner of YOUR life to blow YOUR mind with a greater reality of Him. Do you believe it?
Make it a point to take some time in the next couple weeks leading up to Easter to pause, be still and reflect not just on the power and resurrection of Jesus, but on His suffering that made it all possible. Let’s be like Paul, who said,
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)
When we participate in His suffering by remembering–really remembering– and soaking in the reality of what He did for us on the cross and by enduring suffering in our own lives for His sake, we will experience His abiding presence in a much deeper, more intimate way. Jesus Himself says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Nothing like a rusty old nail to let the reality of that Truth sink in.
1. What does Easter mean to you? When is the last time you meditated on Jesus’ suffering on the cross?
2. Recall a personal encounter you had with Christ. What was special about it? If you can’t recall one, ask God to give you a greater revelation of His love so that you may experience Him in a deeper way.
3. What does ‘participating in Jesus’ suffering’ mean to you? How can you apply it in your life this week?
*Feel free to share your thoughts on Easter, suffering, experiencing God or whatever you’d like!
I recently went to see the romantic comedy called No Strings Attached. Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who one day decide to sleep with each other. But in order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep things strictly “no strings attached.” By “no strings” they meant no commitment, no vulnerability, no becoming emotionally involved. It meant they could reap the benefits of an intimate relationship while still doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.
I wonder if sometimes we approach our relationship God with a similar “No Strings Attached” clause. We want all the benefits a life with God has to offer, but we don’t want to have to put in the work that is required of a deeply intimate and personal relationship.
For years, I called myself a Christian, reaping the benefits of forgiveness, salvation and having Someone to turn to whenever I was in desperate need of something. But rarely did I open my Bible to spend time getting to know God. Rarely did I interrupt my daily activities to pray. Rarely did I ask God how He was doing or what it was that He wanted. I was on a quest to get what I wanted and on my terms. I was a Christian dragging God along side my life just in case I needed Him along the way.
Finally I realized there was so much more to having a relationship with God. His gift of grace is free and awesome, but getting to know Him on a deeper level takes time. Energy. Effort. Investment. Sacrifice even. Jesus says the primary way we can get to know Him and show our love for Him is to do what He says:
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” -John 14:21
Keeping his commands is what He asks of us. Keeping His commands is ‘attaching the strings’. It requires obeying when we don’t understand. It requires connecting with Him through His Spirit and His Word when we don’t feel like it. It requires we persevere in believing in the unseen even when what we see is hopeless. It requires confessing our wrongs and forgiving those who have wronged us even when we are hurt. It requires letting God into our life so intimately and so deeply that we can’t help but be molded and made to His image.
“No Strings Attached” doesn’t exist with God.
But guess what? The benefits far outweigh a few cheap thrills and some temporary moments of bliss. Jesus says that when we obey His commands, when we put in the effort to know Him, when we ‘attach our strings to Him,’ then He WILL love us and show Himself to us. What an awesome promise!
We can be like the couple in the movie choosing to live with “No Strings Attached,” letting our fears, doubts and selfish needs keep us from a total relationship investment. Or we can we can dive in fully, deeply, totally, and completely with God, trusting that the benefits of an intimate relationship with Him are sooooooo much more than we could ever ask for or imagine.
Which will you choose?