I still feel like that, almost every day. Don't get me wrong - I love my job. I love my kids. I'm not about to quit or run off; there is nothing I would rather be doing. In fact, youth ministry and I have fit together in a way I didn't expect, a surprisingly compatible match for a weird introvert like me. (Turns out lots of teens are weird introverts, too.)
But there is a certain aspect to Christianity, to life itself, that makes you feel as if you are always on trial. On trial - that this might be temporary, and if you ever displease us then off with her head. On trial - that your motives are questioned and people called to witness your actions. On trial - and you wake up each morning wondering what you'll be accused of today, wondering if you're guilty after all. Your past
The gospel of Jesus Christ isn't about dread. So why do we have to drag ourselves out of bed?
"They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders and the scribes were assembled."
"Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 'We heard him say...'"
"All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, 'Prophesy!'"
In the trial of Jesus, all of the negative energy is pointed toward him like so many arrows. What he's done and what they feel he's failed to do are shoved in his face. Things he can't change - his mission is complete and his actions offended people, there's nothing that can be done about it now and he doesn't deny it. I sometimes wonder, How did he even breathe? Silent, bracing, resisting. Being God and man, it seems kind of ridiculous that the people he endowed with life are pretending to have power over his. It'd be like your paper airplanes rioting against you and trying to pummel you to death. You are too proud of them, they are too precious for you, to crush them. Even though you easily could. Jesus lets them, enduring every strike, knowing that in less than an instant he could level all of Jerusalem, and everyone in it. The power lies right below his skin, just as it did in the desert.
In the face of so much hatred, how should you even react? When someone is so determined to hate you, what are you supposed to do?
"Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, 'Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.' But he began to curse and he swear an oath, 'I do not know this man you are talking about.' "
"Pilate asked him again, 'Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.' But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed."
Calvary is riddled with gossip. What people say about Jesus - insults from strangers or feigned ignorance from friends - is just as violent as what people do to physically harm him. And Jesus renders himself... defenseless. The God of Angel Armies, surrendered.
Our friends go to lunch without inviting us. The world's most brilliant Facebook status went virtually unnoticed. Our ticket was sold to someone else. Your best friend forgot your birthday or sent an insufficient text. Someone we are trying to do business with ignores us. The person whom you sent a smile at the four way stop replies with a honk and rude gesture.
If you're alive, this has got to look like one of your days - and not even a bad day. Just a normal Monday. Just another Thursday with a board meeting that night and you don't know if you'll have time for lunch, let alone dinner. Maybe you struggle with anxiety, depression or trauma, and these sort of days seem to happen more often than not.
"It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!"
Mk 15:25, 29
"When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice.... Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was God's Son!' "
Mk 15: 34
I don't know how your morning started or when your coffee wore off. By 9am, you might be just getting to work. The e-mails fly by. The panic to get through just one item on your list. Shortly before lunch you start to feel the twinge of a headache. The slump around 2pm makes you feel inadequate, insufficient, unproductive. By 3pm, all hell is about to break loose and you don't just want to run home for a nap, you need a sabbatical.
To which God says, Courage, dear heart.
"The Lord Himself will fight for you, you need only to be still."
You don't need everybody in the world to be your best friend, to be Following you, to understand your side of the story and approve of you. That headache that you get? The need for caffeine, for adrenaline, for 2 hours of cardio every day? These are the addictions I have in response to the worst addiction of all: people-pleasing.
The submission of Jesus teaches us that there's a big difference between universal popularity and being the Savior of the universe. Did Jesus love them? Yes. To the last drop. Did he need their approval? Quite the opposite.
"They had been saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?' "
"He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.... He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.'"
"'And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if the drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.""
The end is not the end. The bad day is not the beginning of a dark forever. Walls become doors, tombs become an open gate. He who knew no sin, continued to know, to show, nothing but Love. That love plummeted to the depths and through the solid rock of death to create a gaping loophole wide enough for you, me and all of our sin.
Our God-man teaches us how to be a survivor. The hope we need is just around the corner. In closing our eyes we don't claim defeat. We reach out for help. We admit our weakness. We cut ourselves some slack. We ask for people's patience. We resist reacting in moments where we want to lash out or run away. We take a deep breath. We think of the Lord.
We know the weight of those heavy beams, we read the news, we feel the poisonous trickle of fear down our spine as children, adults, Muslims, Christians, those who are innocent, those who are guilty - all of them are condemned to sudden ends they don't deserve.
None of us deserve unjust trial. None of us deserve a bitter death. We don't deserve to be isolated and when you look around, I think you'll find, that you never really are. You're never alone.
One of my kids once told me, "Don't give up. There's always someone there for you." So when you feel a heavy heart, restless for heaven... when you feel like your face has been shoved in the dirt for a few too many weeks in a row. Don't be like me, who would rather drown than admit they need a lifesaver. Look around and yes, you will see the dozens who don't approve of you or wish you would just move on and out of their life, but don't stop there. Keep spinning the reel until the blurs of angry faces break and you find the one. The One who would die at your side if they could, just so you don't have to do it alone.
The one who would go to your tomb first thing in the morning to make sure you had the good-bye you deserved. The one who feels overwhelmed with grief, amazement and pure, pure joy at the sight of your death & resurrection. If you cannot drag yourself out of the pit for yourself, do it for them.
We all have a mother, even if her love is imperfect. We all have a father, even if we hardly know him. We all have a family even if they are unseen.
We all have a God who - in the sight of your disapproval - prayed for mercy upon you.
It's hard for me to pray most days. I don't know what God really wants from me - I already give him all of my time, right? All of my heart? But I've found that what leads me to pray is love. Love for Jesus, yes. But love for the gifts that He's given me that I'm fearful He will take away. Because I love them. Love for my life, love for my family, even love for the job I have. I don't want to misuse the gift.
Let love be what wakes you up in the morning.
Let gratitude be the driving force of your prayers.
Look for the ones who support you. Praise God for the ones who don't. Without them, you would not understand His love for you. To be put on trial is to know the love of the Lord.
Know that each morning when you wake up and approach the trial of meetings, to do lists, expectations, you will never be alone in completing them. Think of the friendly face that is waiting for you there. Humanity means perfection is not an expectation and loneliness is only a perception.
Why is each day so hard for you? Because you care. (As much as you maybe don't want to anymore.) You're in love with those ridiculous people. And love is a mess. You bear their burdens to the point of exhaustion. You take their slander patiently without hurting them in turn. Peace is not even a question. Justice is not what you care about. In the end, you want their holiness, their happiness, not their approval so much as their heaven. If you really and truly love them, it doesn't really matter if they love you back (Mt 5:44, Lk 6:28).
Why? Why would you care so much for those who care so little for you?
Because He first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)
I praise God for you and your compassionate, heavy-laden heart. Keep up the good fight. You're doing it right.
"Oh Happy Fault of Adam
that merited such and so great a Redeemer."