I went into the Fast-Fix jewelry store and had the chain for my gold cross necklace fixed the other day. It’s only taken me a mere 25 years to do it but alas, it is finished. Those were Christ’s words as he hung from the cross, giving up mortality for immortality, death for life, a sin scarred body for the sins of man. Before they tested the color of his blood by the piercing of his flesh, he uttered, “It is finished.”
His work on earth accomplished.
His body removed from the cross and laid to rest.
The sins of man soon to be silenced by his descent into darkness.
His ressurection made known by the glory His return.
Everything’s completed. All we had to do was praise Him for his promise kept and to come and yet, instead, we left Him on the cross.
Looking at my necklace as the clerk ran my debit card, I smiled at how it sparkled. Even others, within the first couple days of wearing it again after 25 years, made comments about how pretty and shiny it was. Within days I was back to rubbing it between my fingers every now and again. Not out of habit or unintentionally, as you see some women do, but with intention. Because every now and again throughout the day, I am reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made for me by hanging on a cross. A rugged, splintery, dirty cross that didn’t sparkle and no one called it pretty.
But it was a cross. And as he prepared to hang there, he suffered more than we can ever comprehend…
He suffered the betrayal from those who called him friend and found healing through his hands no less than 24 hours before.
He suffered mocking from those who were serving Rome by persecuting him.
He suffered embarrassment and shame when asked to disrobe prior to his ill-imposed punishment.
He suffered bullying when the soldiers made a crown out of thorns and abrasively shoved it onto his head, causing stinging pain when that crown pierced through his flesh, their laughter echoing up to the halls of heaven.
He suffered searing pain being flogged — struck on his flesh with a whip that tore and peeled his flesh by the sharp metal or bone pieces inserted into its leather strap — at least forty times.
He suffered exhaustion carrying his cross.
He suffered an agony known of throughout history but suffered by few, as nails were pounded through the dusty and bloodstained flesh of his hands and feet.
He suffered traumatic discomfort as his body, lying upon two weighty lengths of timber, was raised from the ground and with a jolt, causing every scratch, every scrape, every open wound to throb anew.
As the sun beat upon him, He suffered a ‘chronic’ pain as the clothes given back to him, (which would later be gambled upon for ownership), rubbed against his backside.
He suffered abandonment as he cried out, “God, why have you forsaken me?”
He suffered ridicule when the guards taunted him with vinegar for water.
He suffered the heat of the day as he took one last breath and uttered, “It is finished.”
It is finished.
No more pain. No more suffering. Then taken down from the cross off suffering, he was laid in a tomb.
It is finished.
Some have argued that Jesus is no longer on the cross so why not “take that cross off from around your neck.” “It’s an idol.'” “It’s superstitious.”
I don’t agree. Yes, He’s gone. To the grave and back and beyond. But, I don’t idolize the cross and I’m not superstitious. But I will wear it. Proudly. I will take it in my hand throughout the day and remember…
He suffered for me. It was an ill-imposed punishment because it should have been me on that cross. He was sinless. I am not. He made a way to bring me back into fellowhsip with my heavenly Father. And a wear agold cross to remind me of just that.
O God, listen to my cry!
Hear my prayer.
From the ends of the earth,
I cry to you for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety…
I am a big fixer. I want everyone to be happy. Smiling. Content. But that’s not reality. The reality is that it is not up to me to fix everything. And, it’s not up to me to keep everyone happy, smiling, and content. To do that, I’d have to be in control of the universe. That’s not going to happen. Ever.
I realized yesterday I tend to coddle people. I realized yesterday I don’t like coddling people. I realized yesterday that I taught my son to do that. I realized yesterday – that is not a good thing. And, in all of my yesterday-realizations, I realized – I need to stop. The world’s happiness has not been made my burden. I am accountable for only myself in how I choose react to the next set of circumstances that this world throws at me.
Roger Crawford once said, “Being challenged in this life is inevitable. Being defeated is a choice.”
I have a chronic illness and how I choose to deal with it is what matters. Will I choose to believe and trust that my God is bigger than all of this or – will I demonstrate to others that life is a burden to bear and I want them all to know what I suffer?
It is one thing to suffer. It is another to “suffer” for the sake of attention. That is the “suffering” I wish to avoid. For myself and toward others. Pity is never pretty.
When I was a little girl, I used to lie in bed at night when I couldn’t sleep, pretending to be a patient in a hospital so people would come and visit me. In my illusions, I received the attention I longed for. But I am not a little girl anymore and illusions aren’t real and certainly don’t bring comfort.
Now when I lay awake in bed, sometimes I think about those sleepless nights as a little girl and I don’t want to be that needy person. I want to be strong for myself and supportive for others. I can only do that by pairing up with the One who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.”*
Not fully understanding, I use to cringe at that verse. Wasn’t a yoke heavy and bulky? Burdensome? I had seen those things. How could they lighten your load? Then I did a little research. A yoke is heavy and bulky – a burden. But – when paired with a fellow burden bearer – Jesus – it suddenly becomes much, much lighter. And Jesus, being a gentle and oh-so-humble-teacher, teaches us to carry our loads and find rest for our weary souls – when we are yoked to Him, our fellow burden bearer.
Whether it’s another day walking slow and painfully stiff, or whether it’s another morning weeding my garden without pain, I will be accountable as to how I spent this day. I want to spend it well and not end it pitifully seeking illusory attention. Besides, if I am yoked to Him, I’m getting all the strength and attention I need and I now can spend those restless, sleepless nights praising God for His gentleness and faithfulness while praying for others.
From my heart ~ Sherri
*Matthew 11:29 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
I could hear the familiar sound of the stroller that carried my neighbor’s granddaughter. The plastic wheels turning round and round over the pavement, crunching rocks underneath. I heard the familiar sound of the metal gate open and close. My mind drifted back to my work until I heard it again. Strange. They are right out front and no one is talking. Very unusual.
I continued my work and heard the stroller begin rolling again, away from the house, the opposite direction they usually walk.
Everything’s weird today, I thought to myself and kept working.
After a few minutes, I heard the stroller returning. Crazy.
It stopped out front again. No voices. No Bella saying ‘Hi Grandma’. Strange. Then I heard a loud ker-plunk and got up from my desk and went outside.
There in my yard, was my neighbor’s autistic son, making a rock border around my flowers with river rocks he had been carting back and forth in his small, plastic garden cart. I hadn’t been hearing the familiar stroller going back and forth, it wwas a plastic garden cart. I stood there at the top of the steps and wanted to cry.
I had recently read a book about fundamentalists in a certain religious sect and it really bothered me to think how cruel and messed up we can get, all in the name of who we believe our god to be. How hurtful and mean, deceived and destructive we can become and we deceive ourselves and call it love or enlightenment. How sad. Only despair seems as if it could live in a lie of that magnitude and despair is exactly what I read about on those pages of that book.
I admit that it was a ‘downer’. While it moved me to be thankful for a God who doesn’t condemn or deceive, I have to confess that I began to question whether I believed what I believed merely because someone told me it was the ‘right’ thing to do and if that’s how I grew up. But—that’s not how I grew up. Yes, I was taught right from wrong, to be and do good and what that looked like. Howeverr, I didn’t meet Jesus until I was twelve when an older friend told me about Him. I fell in love with this man who miraculously came to earth to set me free for eternity. No one forced me. No one told me it was the ‘right’ thing to do. I knew it in my heart.
However, after reading that book I mentioned above, I questioned whether I had gotten caught up with a fundamentalist belief in a god that was nothing more than other gods created by man. I despaired. I felt lost and then I realized what was going on.
The enemy is sly.
In the midst of my despair, however, I asked God to show me that there are decent people in this world that know He’s real. That know He is there for them and won’t lead them astray.
My neighbor told me a story the other night about her son and The Case of the $25 Swindled Dollars. Seems her son did some volunteer work for a neighbor who is somewhat senile. He claimed that the boy swindled him out of “$25 outrageous dollars” to move some boxes and cart some stuff around his house and do some other stuff of which I cannot recollect. That’s not important. What matters is that this man went to another man two streets over and voiced his disapproval, not realizing that man #2 and his wife were friends with this boy in question and his family. The wife of man #2 relayed the conversation between man #1 and man #2 to my neighbor, the boy’s mother, who then asked her son about the accusation.
Now, I don’t know everything there is to know about my neighbor’s son, but I have watched him. I have listened to him. He would never do that and told his mom so, even though she knew the answer already to the accusation. Regardless, he took $25 of his earned money mowing lawns and asked his mom to go with him next door to the swindler accuser. When he answered the door, this is what was said…
“Mr. Jones (name changed to protect the guilty), I want to apologize for making you feel that I unfairly took $25 from you and want to give you the money that you’re missing.”
Imagine a stunned face.
The conversation continued. “Well son, I don’t know any adult that would say I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.”
The boy responds… “You don’t need to say anything. I just don’t want there to be anything between us, Mr. Neighbor, because that’s what Jesus would want.”
I should have told you to get some Kleenex before you started reading this. I apologize.
So, as I stood there at the top of the steps, I remembered that story. As I watched my answered prayer being played out before my eyes, I watched my neighbor’s son doing what I can imagine Jesus doing, by building a border with rocks for my flowers, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to a God that doesn’t leave us in despair but who rescues us from the pits we find ourselves in and uses the least likely means… a young man with a plastic garden cart who just wants to love like Jesus.
Oh, and did I mention that the man who accused my neighbor’s son had paid him $25 for helping him? That was before he noticed $25 was ‘missing’. I think it’s become The Case of the $25 Senility Test.