Whew… Fridays come around awfully fast! And on this Friday, let's first take a minute to remember that it is Good Friday, the day that we remember Jesus dying on the cross. I grew up remembering and honoring that every year on Good Friday, but in so many ways, I don't think I really got it. It didn't do anything to my heart, and I did not truly recognize this incredible sacrifice He made so that I could live free of all of my guilt, shame, and past (and future) sins. Even though I knew what happened on Good Friday, and even though I knew that He died for me, and even though I knew that He rose from the dead and His spirit could live within me, I carried all of that around for years. Many people have trouble with the logic, as in, did He really raise from the dead? I mean- really?? (which by the way, no remains of Jesus have every been found… and His disciples along with many of His followers were brutally martyred for sharing His story after this death and resurrection, and if they hadn't really witnessed it, I highly doubt someone, much less many someones, would die to pass along that story), but I never questioned it logically. For me, it was more of a matter of handing that guilt and shame and junk over to Him. I know it's not a physical act, but sometimes it's more comfortable to hang onto it. I mean, we deserve to have to carry that around. We deserve a life separate from God's goodness and grace. It's almost as if we can accept that Jesus died for the sins of the world, but not our sins. Nope, our sins we have to live with forever and ever.
Over the past six years, the story of Jesus on the cross has impacted me dramatically. I cannot say that it happened overnight, but over time, the head knowledge I had began to sink into my heart. I was weary from carrying around my past misdoings. I was tired of feeling like I would never get it right. In fact, I felt like I couldn't really go to church until I got my life in order… ever been there? But God is funny that way. He brought a handsome pastor into my life while I was in the midst of really trying to figure out how to get it all right. Truthfully, I tried to say no to our first date, because I knew that I was a mess, carrying around all of this junk, and since he was a pastor, he must not have any of that. God never cared that I was a mess, but He did want me to hand that mess over to Him. In fact, Josh didn't really care that I was a mess either, but He didn't want me to stay there. It's funny that logically His death and even his resurrection made sense to me; I never doubted that. But logically, accepting what He did as a gift of freedom to me, was what didn't make sense. At some point, that head knowledge just has to become heart knowledge. I came to the end of myself, threw up my hands, decided I couldn't stay where I was, and just handed it over. I handed over all that I had done wrong, all of my imperfections, all of my desires to please others, and you know what? When I got rid of that, it made so much more room in my heart for change. I had been so weighed down by it all for all those years that I didn't know how much more capacity I would have to love others if I handed that over. How much more room I'd have for compassion to set in, so I could serve others. How much more room I had for joy to appreciate the little and big things in life, so that I could bless others. And pretty much immediately, He started blessing ME for that one, simple decision. Sure, I still have my days of feeling low every now and then because I am human. Harsh words or actions still sting every now and then, and sometimes I get it wrong, hurting those I love without meaning to. But at the end of every day, I know that it's okay, He reaches down and takes that off my shoulders, He pours out fresh mercy every morning, and I get to try again the next day. Everyday I try to imitate Jesus, and everyday, at some point, I mess up. But I am so incredibly thankful, so much more joyful, and am living a life that I did not earn, nor do I deserve. And that's the whole point of the cross… it really just comes down to whether or not we allow ourselves to accept it for everything that it is.
If you are struggling with past hurts, sins, guilt, shame, and just feel bogged down by the world, I would encourage you to go to church this Easter and listen to your heart, not your head. Let the story of Easter stir your soul, and let His goodness wash over you. If you've never watched Passion of the Christ, check that out, too. It's brutal, but it makes it so real. Nobody would voluntarily go through that if it didn't matter. So this Easter, make it personal, and make it matter.
So finally, as I get to my Five this Friday, this week it's my five greatest blessings since saying "YES" to what a life with Jesus means:
(1) My faith… in good times, in bad times, it is my rock. My roots are deeply rooted in Him so that things of this world cannot rock me. God is my source of hope, strength, and courage. I would be lost without Him.
(2) This man. If I had made a list of everything I could want in a husband, He is that and more. He helped me find my way and encourages me to help others do the same. He challenges me to always be better, always find more ways to serve and bless others, and is a great father and role model. He embodies what it means to be the spiritual head of our household, and my kids are learning to be more like Jesus because they want to be more like daddy. I don't deserve Him, but again, that's how God works. He is far more than I deserve, and I hope I love him in a way that he knows that everyday.
(3) Our two precious little ones. I always say that if you can witness the miracle of growing a baby and seeing it come into the world, I am not sure how you can doubt that God exists. It was in that moment that they came into the world that I felt the presence of God all around me. They can be a lot of handle sometimes, but they make my heart swell with more love than I thought possible. I definitely don't deserve them, but God blessed me with them anyway, and now I want to do all I can to make sure they grow up not just loving Him, but KNOWING Him. I want it to always be personal for them. These two will surely impact the world in a positive way if I can just get that right.
(4) This ministry… and others I have the privilege of being a part of. Me- a pastor's wife?? Really??? Like everything else, it doesn't make sense. I've grown in this role over time, have become comfortable with it over time, still doubt whether or not I measure up daily, but realize that it's a role that God entrusted me with, so I will do all that I can to treat it as it should be. I get a front row seat to the miracles that God pours out over our church family. I hear stories that not everyone gets to know about marriages that are restored, addictions that are broken, and past hurts that are forgiven as that baggage is handed over. It's not always the easiest role to be in, but I never underestimate what an honor it is to be chosen for it.
(5) The relationship I have… whether it's through family, ministry, or old friends, I have more friends and people who love me in my life than I know what to do with. I have friends who are mentors, and friends who I mentor. I have friends who know all of my secrets, and friends who entrust me with theirs. Life is all about relationships, and I know without a doubt that I am surrounded by people daily who genuinely love me for me. My acceptance comes through how I please Jesus, so that my friends can come through nothing other than love.
May the significance of Christ's death and resurrection impact you in a new, fresh way this Easter. May his grace and mercy wash over you, and the past you've been carrying around with you be stripped away so you may start anew and live in freedom. I pray that Easter is the start of a brand new day for you, or a reminder of how free you truly are now that you're living FOR Him. It sounds funny to sign off with Happy Good Friday here, as the day was anything but happy, but the joy is coming in three more days.
Happy Easter to you and your loved ones. I'll get back to my regularly-scheduled Friday Kid-Funnies next week, but this was just too big of a Friday to pass up.