Tears streamed down my face and a cry came from my own voice as I heard shouts of agony coming from the cross. Just three years old at the time, the cries I heard from the cross were voiced by my father; a minister in our small town, he had been asked to play the part of Jesus in a reenactment of the crucifixion during ‘Holy Week’ – the week of Easter that remembers the death and resurrection of Jesus. Of course my father’s shouts were fabricated for the enactment, but to my three-year-old heart it was all too real as the pounds of a hammer boomed into the crowd and my father’s screams indicated the pain of being nailed to a cross.
Years later I may have forgotten those exact moments when the reality of suffering became real to my tender heart, but the impact of facing the pain of someone who I loved more than anyone in the world remained with me.
How can there be so much pain?
Why does pain affect those I love?
Would someone really choose agony in order to protect me?
Every year after that pivotal moment of my childhood, when it came time for church gatherings and events that recognized the death of Jesus, my heart would be gripped with grief and emotion that challenged me to reckon with suffering – not only that of my father, or even that of the world, but that of the very One who created me and formed my innermost being. The One whose comforting presence I sensed in the darkest nights; the One whom I loved more than anyone in the world.
How could I, year after year, choose to remember?
Remember the pain.
Remember the agony.
Remember His choice.
For a while I chose to forget. Not able and not willing to come to grips with the fact that my beloved’s love for me would cause the greatest suffering, I tried to hide. I looked for ways to deny myself in order to feel like I was worthy. To feel like I could make up for something horrible.
Until I had nothing left.
Until the reality of my fragile, meaningless efforts became stark enough to make me realize the darkness of the tomb I had buried myself in.
Until the eyes of my fragile heart finally met the kindness of His gaze, and the brightness of it resurrected life into every area of my darkened existence.
Until remembrance finally brought freedom.
My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer lives; for the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me – we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself to me, and dispenses his life into mine!
So that is why I don’t view God’s grace as something minor or peripheral. For if keeping the law could release God’s righteousness to us, the Anointed One would have died for nothing.
- Emily Elling, Staff 2019