Tonight we had two families over for a Good Friday meal. We sat the whole crew (tightly) around our farm table and talked about why Jesus died on the cross. At first we got the “usual churchy” answers – for our sins, because His Father told him to, and the unique one: “So he could feed more people.” When I asked why it was important that he die for our sins, they came up with several answers, among them, “So we could know God.” And out of the mouth of an 8-year-old, “To take away our shame.” Wow. I asked what he meant by that. He explained how we didn’t have to feel bad because Jesus took all of that. I’m so thankful for that reminder.
Then we took it a bit farther. We went around the entire table, all twelve of us, and shared one by one why we were glad to be alive. After all, didn’t Jesus give us life FOREVER?
Their answers made my jaw drop. One boy said that he was happy to be alive because if he wasn’t alive, he would be nothing. Hmmm, think about that. How often am I “dead” or “nothing” because I have stopped really living. One boy said he was happy to be alive so he could do cool stuff, like playing with his friends. One of the parents shared how happy he was to be alive so he could continue with his love of learning, and so he could witness the growth of his children as they continue to learn. One mom couldn’t say why she was happy to be alive because her son spoke for her. He said, “I know what she is going to say… that she is so happy to be alive since she has such wonderful children.” And she simply agreed. Another mom said she was happy to be able to witness God’s creation and the beauty all around her. One of our children said he was happy to be alive so he could spend every day with “mommy and daddy. You guys,” he said, pointing to us. Then his friend kept nudging his side as if to say, “Don’t forget me.” One child said he was glad to be alive so he could do “this” – and then proceeded to do a break-dance sort of movement which I don’t think I will ever forget.
It was a precious time. I loved hearing what’s on their hearts and even the youngest child, who is 3, took part. He, of course, brought the focus right back where we had started. “I’m happy because of Jesus.”
What a privilege it is to share a meal with friends and our children around ONE table where we can remember why it’s good to be alive. This Good Friday, I was reminded that death was conquered for us so we COULD find happiness in being alive. Even as I face trials and temptations, I can rejoice knowing that Jesus did away with shame.
Today, I wrote this in my journal: When I am struggling with certain sinful patterns, I can remember that Jesus has already taken these struggles on. He has carried them. He didn’t give up, and still does not give up on me, even when I want to give up on myself. He walked with all of those burdens and he made his way to the hilltop where he was crucified, willingly. I can only imagine the heartache he had as he continued, step by step, carrying that heavy cross. He took all of these selfish desires and all of my wayward choices and he asked, on my behalf, for forgiveness for those who “do not know what they do.” And sometimes, in my fight to get what I want, I feel like I do not know what I do. It’s the duplicity I see in myself between the healthy me and the sick me. The same duplicity Paul talked about when he said, “For what I do not want to do, that is what I do.” But my Jesus, so lovingly, so obediently, prayed on the sinner’s behalf, heart reaching out to those who were lost. His heart focused on the spiritually bankrupt person in front of him, rather than his own pain. I love him so much for that. And then, as he took his last breath, he said, “It is finished.”
THAT is the key for me this Good Friday. IT IS FINISHED. I no longer have to live in a fractured way, where I fight between being me, the one who God created, and me, the one who I created. I can choose to live within my true identity when I remember what our little friend said tonight, “He took away our shame.” Yes, it is finished. I am free. And that makes me happy to be alive.