I prefer renaissance depictions of the resurrection, but in my opinion the crucifixion belongs to the baroque period. So much tension, drama, and darkness marks Good Friday images in my mind. The death of the King and it was all our fault. How great and terrible! Even though His sacrifice was a gift to us, there are some gifts that are painful to receive.
I’ve been learning about this all too distinctly, lately. As Emily and I continue to raise the funds we need for our work in India we are finding it painful to become the recipients of such generosity and grace. It’s because we know there is a cost and sacrifice associated with it. Often times we will become more acutely aware of that cost and it causes a wonderful and painful twisting of gratitude within us. Just yesterday I received a message from a dear friend who has recently lost his/her job but is committed to supporting our ministry no less. We know others who have made the long and hard journey out of debt and have decided to use their newfound financial freedom to support us. More still who have climbed by God’s mercy out of even deeper financial turmoil.
One of the most impactful stories my Indian friends have told me is about a woman who gave sacrificially. In one of the villages, a woman felt that God was leading her to pledge what little financial support she could to another Indian who was moving to the north as a church-planter. She was a poor woman, married to a man who drank away most of their income and left just enough rupees to feed her and her children. She ended up using a little of the money to feed her children and putting the rest away to give as an offering. She would wrap her sari around her waist and tighten it as much as she could to silence the hunger pains. When she brought her offering to church, the pastor asked her why she chose to go without food and she simply replied that it pleased her more to give her meager rupees to her Jesus, who has already given her so much.
I think of that woman every time someone commits to supporting us. I see my friends and family tightening their saris around their waists and knowing that my livelihood is a sacrificial gift, and it hurts. But we call this day “Good Friday,” because the painful gifts are typically the best gifts. I think Jesus didn’t die just to reconcile us to God. He also did it to change us. That’s what that pain is all about. Flannery O’Conner said, “Grace changes us and change is painful.” So every time I feel that twinge of painful gratitude it only makes me that much more committed to moving to India and doing the work to which we are called. Those who are supporting us are literally giving of themselves to see it happen and that spurs me on.
So too, Christ gave us Himself and it hurts to receive that gift. I suspect that’s why many people have not received it. The notion that we have to “clean up our lives” before coming to Him is an attempt to null the pain but the truth is, we can never clean up enough to do that. The only way to be clean is by coming before Him, receiving His Grace and letting that painfully scrub away the sin. Good Friday has to be a solemn day. It’s got to be a day when we remember the darkness of the death of the King. I’ve been listening to the new Rend Collective album lately and so far, my favorite line is from the first song: “The dark is just a canvas / for Your grace and brightness.” We can let Good Friday be a dark day, a painful day even, as we remember the suffering of our Savior, our Best Friend. We can do so because the pain changes us, makes us more committed to Him, while the darkness sets the stage for Resurrection Sunday; the brightest day in history.