Crucifixion

The first time I saw Him covered in blood
it was my own, and I could silence his cries
in the warmth of my arms.
The pain then was mine alone to bear,
easily forgotten in the presence of new life,
in His presence.
.
Now all of the miracles and wonders have
come to this dark place,
this dark day,
this day of blood,
and a pain that cannot be eased
with hope of something better,
because this day will end in death.
.
My beloved!
Shamed, disfigured, disgraced–
.
There is nothing left of light but memory.
……………………………………………………………………………………….
This poem is part of a series that began with the poem “Nativity,” written a few years ago.
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The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus: Meditation on Romans 5:8

This verse has been running through my head the past few days:

Romans 5:8 (NIV, ©2011)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Can you imagine a love this big? God didn’t say, “Get yourself cleaned up and obey my rules, and then, I’ll die for you.” He didn’t say, “Get yourself right with me, and then I’ll die for you.” He didn’t even say, “Love me, and I’ll die for you.” He loves us so much that He died for us when we were in sin, separated from Him, when we rejected and denied Him, when we deliberately disobeyed Him. He loves us so much that He has provided a way back to Him–no matter how far away from Him we go.

This kind of love takes my breath away. I feel so unworthy in the face of it, because I know that I do not come close to loving in this way. I like to think that I am a loving, caring person, but in the face of a love like this, my love pales in comparison. How could I ever love Him as much as He loves me? And while I could see myself dying for my children or other members of my immediate family, I would probably never lay down my life for those that have hurt me, rejected me, deceived me, or betrayed me. Yet this is exactly what Jesus did. He did it for all of us; He did it for me.

My first response in trying to understand this profound love is, “Who am I that You, sweet Jesus, would love me this much?” The only answer is that He loves me this much because of who He is. He is love. I am inspired to attempt to live a life that is somehow worthy of His love. I pray that He will help me love Him more and better and deeper.

This old hymn by Samuel Francis is a beautiful response to the realization of His love:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!


Thoughts on Freezing and Thawing

Today, January 26th, marks one year since I left my life and husband in Denver and moved back to the city of my birth.  I call it the day that my world fell apart, which is true, but what I didn’t know then (and would never have acknowledged) was that it was also the beginning of a new world for me–a world where God has been so near and so present that, even though I feel like I am walking through a tundra, I also feel like I am being healed and put back together as a whole human being.

For many years, I lived with a frozen soul.  Like the Narnia that was ruled by the White Witch, I lived in a spiritual place where it was “always winter but never Christmas.”  I think that being frozen is different from being numb, because when you are numb you are incapable of feeling.  I was capable of feeling, but all that I was feeling was pain: unending hurt and misery.  This constant pain caused a layer of ice to form over my soul so that even when there were moments of happiness, they were unable to penetrate and give me any relief.

Freezing was my method of surviving. By freezing, I could put on a smile, dress up, dress up my children and pretend (even to myself) that everything was just fine. The frozen layer kept all of my pain and frustration hidden. I did such a good job of this, that some people even wished they could have a life like mine. When I heard this, my stomach would turn. But I believed that if I could keep up the pretense, I could keep everything together.

But one year ago, it all fell apart.  I believed, at the time, that I had been buried under an avalanche.  The truth is, it was really the first crack in my frozen exterior.  Over the past year, under the love of my Savior (And I really know what His Name means), I have gently thawed.  More and more of the real me is being exposed.

Nowadays, I make no pretense of having it all together.  Being a single mom of four young girls six and under won’t allow for that.  My girls show up at church some days in the clothes they wore to bed and their hair only minimally combed.  They run around, out of my grasp, out of control, and gathering them in is like trying to corral wild horses.  Some days I am able to get a little make-up on; some days I don’t.  There is just no way for me to look like I have it all together.  Most days I am thankful to God that He has me in this position.

Because I can no longer focus on my appearance, I feel like I am much more focused on what truly matters.  The more I thaw, the more I am able to enjoy my girls.  In the last few months, we have had moments of deep-belly laughing that have been cathartic for all of us.  We didn’t laugh much before.  Perhaps we were all frozen.

A frozen life is not what I want for them or for myself.  I don’t believe that God wants us to live that way either.  Psalm 104 describes a Creator who made earth for our enjoyment: “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for men to cultivate–bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.” (vv. 14-15)  This place where His face shines upon us only becomes real when we get real, when we allow the truth of who we are to break out and flow through and bless ourselves and the ones we love.

So this year I say, let winter do its worst.  I will still be warm, resting in the arms of the One who loves me best.

A Christmas Prayer

My Redeemer,
Everlasting God, You have
Set me free!
So I will rejoice
In your coming
And praise Your
Holy Name forever. Amen.

Nativity

One dark night,
my life opened,
and Love came–
not in a chariot
drawn by fine, white horses,
but after agonizing pain,
He slipped,
screaming,
into my arms
and changed this world forever.
.
There were no princely robes
nor stately palace
with a soft, warm bed
to welcome this King of Kings–
just swaddling clothes,
a wooden manger,
and I–
no queen
to bear such a Prince,
nor saint,
to live such a calling.
.
But I gave
all I had:
a full breast,
embracing arms,
a kiss,
my heart.
.
For in that divine moment,
on that dark night,
my life opened
and Love came–
and I was saved.

Shattered

My soul lay there
like slivers of glass
shattered by a malignant hammer
and scattered to the edges of the kingdom
by a determined and disgusted boot.

I gather the shards,
lay them on the altar of Your love,
and pray
that what looks like total destruction
is, for You, a sacrifice to be transformed
into abundant life.