So my parents just got back from Alaska to see the Northern Lights. Apparently God decided to put on a wild show. Just before they got there the sun threw out some wild solar flares, hitting our atmosphere just in time. This picture seems surreal and other-worldly. But it isn’t actually my favorite one.
Impressed aren’t you. It would seem that my dad forgot to take off the lens cap. But actually this picture captures something extraordinary.
Just highlighting the behind-the-scenes in photoshop (no other doctoring at all!) reveals what couldn’t be seen: brilliant show with the North Star leading the way.
And this is Good Friday, leading up to Easter. As Jesus hung there bloody and dying, every reasonable person was either cheering or crying because Jesus and his mission was snuffed out. But he wasn’t. It was the darkest of times that turned into the brightest. The exact same moment was the worst time in history and the best. The death of Jesus was brutal, and freeing; horrible and glorious; infuriating and loving.
So my heart needs to visually be reminded that God works in paradoxes. He turns evil into good, and he does it for, in and through me because he did it foremost to and through his Son so that my worst can be turned into best.
And so Jesus could say with confidence: “It Is Finished” (Jn 19:30). Because his death has brought me life. And now as I wait for Sunday when we celebrate the resurrection, I can also wait expectantly for my resurrection when all things will be made new. But even now in the in-between time, I can live with hope, knowing that God’s hidden paradox is at work right now in my life.
Way back in the late 70’s my big brother and I were at my mom’s softball game. She was quite the athlete and holding down left field like a champ. The problem was that my brother was painfully holding me down like a champ with our parental referee at a safe distance. Somehow in the struggle I was able to break free and fled to the only safety I knew: my mom in left field. To the naked eye it looked like I was running out to congratulate my mom on a game well played (though apparently this is usually frowned upon in the middle of the inning). But actually I was just tired of getting beat up and I wanted my mommy, even if it was bad timing and publicly embarrassing.
And this is exactly what Jesus wants for and from me. In my regular life I get hammered by lots of bullies. I work in a church which is, by definition, filled with those who need lots of grace. And sometimes we really aren’t nice to each other. Sometimes I get bullied in my own family or among my friends (as well bully them back). But to be honest I think that most of the bullying that I endure comes from inside of me…that nasty bully called sin that leaves me bloody far more often than I care to admit. In any case…and I mean ANY case…Jesus wants us to immediately come running to him. Even if the timing is awkward and we look silly. We have no other safe place. We have no other hope. We have no other power. Jesus himself came down and was bullied like none other. Even though he was infinitely perfect, he allowed himself to be beat, ripped apart, spat upon, belittled, illegally tried and brutally murdered….so that not only would he understand and empathize with us when we are going through the trenches (though that’s nice), but so that he can HEAL us and give us HOPE in the trenches, even carrying us back home. He has run down to us. Now he carries us back with him. Stop carrying this load alone (stop carrying it all). What Jesus wants is for us to be Speed Gracers.