Good Friday wouldn't be good if Jesus hadn't risen from the dead. Someone said that to me the other day, and it's true. If Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, everything he said would have been a lie and we would still be as stuck in our sin as we were from day one after the Fall.
I was driving down a country road the other day and listening to radio when I was suddenly crying. I was listening to K-love and the host was asking for call-ins from parents about how they explained Easter to their children. One woman called and was talking about her conversation with her 10-yr-old daughter. I don't remember her explanation for how the conversation came about, just her explanation of what God did on that cross. She asked her daughter (and I'm paraphrasing slightly), "Can you remember the worst thing you've ever done? And how bad and how heavy you felt about it? And you've just been here ten years; there are murderers and criminals out there who have hurt kids. Well Jesus took the heaviness and guilt and shame for everyone so that you don't have to because he loves you." She went on to describe how her daughter broke out crying. She got it. Joy. Thankfulness.
I don't know about you, but I wrestle with shame and guilt. I know that heaviness very well. To be reminded of my freedom so unexpectedly, yet at such a perfect moment brought me to tears. Sometimes it takes a succinct, simple explanation to reach through the busy-ness and self-absorbedness of my mind.
Switching gears, there's something else I want to share with you. I've been catching up on reading this weekend for various classes, and one book that's had me absolutely engrossed is Picking Cotton. It is the story of a violent rape, a wrongful conviction and an amazing story of forgiveness and redemption. I highly recommend it. It's a true story written by two people brought together by an act of evil, yet, by God's grace, this was used for incredible good. A woman was raped, and she identified an innocent man. After 10 years of imprisonment, DNA evidence set him free. Two years later they met. He forgave her, which allowed her to forgive herself and the man who actually committed the crime. They became good friends. This is incredible to me. It goes against all of this world's sense. As one who has wrestled with forgiveness and thought about it a lot, this little bit resonated with me. Let me share it with you:
"Forgiveness is tricky. People think when you forgive someone, you excuse what he did. That's not what it is. It's about power and letting go...If Ronald (the man wrongfully convicted) had forgiven me (the victim who accused him) so gracefully, so completely, could I forgive the man who had hurt us both?" (page 252 for those interested)
I agree. Forgiveness doesn't mean everything is as it was. The past doesn't disappear. But we move forward from it. And God forges something stronger, more beautiful than imaginable. So on this Easter weekend, I praise God for being God. For being Unchangeable, Unshakeable, Forever I Am. For being bigger than my sin and yours. For forgiving me more than anyone could ever wrong me. For victory over death, darkness. For not leaving you and me in a pit of loneliness, shame, guilt and heaviness. For being a God of Love. Of Creativity; who else would have designed something beautiful such as a flower to thrive in what we would call refuse, waste or manure?
Happy Resurrection Day, everyone.