Why is it Called GOOD Friday?

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Growing up, I was always confused about why the Christian church called this day Good Friday– the day that Jesus Christ was put to death. I knew the story: the blood, the nails, death on a cross, the method used for criminals. I had learned about crucifixion in gory detail, and how the one crucified would struggle to breathe in such a position, how Christ would have needed to lift his body weight just to get a breath– his body weight pressing against the spikes nailed through his feet. I knew about the hours of darkness, the quaking earth and breaking rocks. About the curtain of the temple being torn in half, top to bottom.

My family would go to a Good Friday service, the front of the sanctuary bearing a cross adorned with a drape of purple fabric. Sometimes we would hold a railroad spike in our hands. We would always take communion: a small tab of bread to represent Christ’s broken body, a small sip of grape juice to represent his blood.

And I would wonder: why is this good?

I remember as a passionate, deep-thinking, sensitive child thinking, I wish I could have stopped this nightmare.

My God had been ridiculed, beaten, and killed. Why was this good?

……………………………………

Friday is good because of Sunday.

Because Friday was not God losing the battle– it was part of the battle plan all along. It was a well-conceived, strategic move before the checkmate.

Because, as I said above, the curtain of the temple was torn in two— this represents our direct access to God, where before we needed a priestly intercessor.

No matter what it looked like on Friday– the end of the world, I’m sure many of Christ’s followers thought, and certainly the end of hope— Sunday was just around the corner. Sunday, the resurrection, the culmination, the checkmate, the victory. It was all part of a master plan, one that we– nearly 2000 years later– can see in full, even if our brothers and sisters at the time could not. We can see the rescue waiting just around the corner. We can say, This is good.

……………………………………

Years ago, I attended a conference where I heard a sermon by Louie Giglio that I will never forget. It profoundly moved me and helped to shape my worldview. The bottom line of it is this: when the bottom drops out of life, we can still have hope — because of the cross.

If you will do just one this for me this entire year, would you please watch 1 minute and 38 seconds of this sermon? I’d love to have you watch the entire thing, but please at least watch from 24:45 to 26:23.

From the foot of the cross, the cross appeared to be the worst thing– from the perspective of history, we Christians see it as the best.

And we can trust that God is at work even in the times that are hardest. This is why I have hope.

……………………………………

This is so core to my identity that I put it into my book in the form of a parable.

Silas tells West that he believes that God is in control, even over the bad things, and she asks him why.

“Writers know that the climax comes before the resolution.” He was quiet for a second, then said, “Not just in fiction, either, West, but in real life too. How many times has the worst thing turned out to be necessary? Or even the best? Rescue wears masks, you know. It’s why people say it’s darkest before the dawn. Sometimes things take a long time to make sense. Could be years and years—or only a weekend. Or they might never make sense. But that doesn’t mean you stop trusting that the world is being rescued.”

Or only a weekend.

Good Friday, everyone. I’m looking forward to Sunday.

Identity

As many of you know, I’m a college admission counselor. I recruit students to my university, attend college fairs, and read a LOT of applications. It’s very common for these seventeen-year-olds to talk about their faith in terms of actions and activities.

unsplash5I go to youth group.
I teach Sunday school.
I went on a mission trip.

I also see a lot about behavior.

I don’t drink or swear.
I don’t go to parties.
I’m committed to sexual purity.

It’s really interesting to me to think back to myself as a seventeen-year-old. At that point, I’d committed my life to Christ for about three years. I was riddled with OCD and mired down in legalism, partially due to the intense black-and-white thinking that OCD forced me into. I probably would have talked about my faith in much the same way.

Now I’m nearly 34; Christ has been my companion for many years– 20 since I made the choice to give my life to him. I’ve been through ERP therapy and set free from so many things, and I think of my faith in such different terms now.

Were someone to ask me to define my faith, I’d have to talk about my identity: I belong to Jesus. I’m a sinful, selfish, prideful, broken person who makes bad decisions and is constantly learning, but I belong to Jesus, and that is what my faith is about. I walk with Christ. He walks with me. I never tackle anything alone– not my novel writing, my persistent issues with anxiety, my career, my relationships. I have a faithful friend, guide, rescuer, and love. I cling desperately to the cross.

Don’t mishear me. I think it’s fantastic for teens to go to youth group and commit to sexual purity. I think our actions (hopefully) flow out of our love for Christ. I just can’t use my actions to define my faith anymore.

My coworkers and I were talking about this and wondering about this shift in mindset that many of us have gone through in our late-twenties and early-thirties. When you are a child, you are taught black and white. It is good to share. It is bad to hit your brother. How could a young mind even begin to fathom gray? I’m not a parent, and sometimes I’m so glad for that. I would have zero idea of how to raise a child.

This blog post isn’t a lesson or a sermon, just an observation that I wanted to share and process via writing. It’s exciting to know that my faith looks different at 34 than it did half a lifetime ago at 17, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like at 51.

more than you can handle

You know that well-intentioned phrase that people say all the time, the one that goes God will never give you more than you can handle?

I hate it.  I think it is such a load of utter crap.

I can’t handle my sin nature and depravity.  I can’t handle death and devastation.  I can’t handle pain and letdowns and rejection and broken relationships and the monstrosities of this current age.

Praise God for the cross of Jesus Christ.  He can handle it all for me.

If God never gave us more than we could handle, then why would we ever turn to Him?

His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection proved He can handle anything and everything.  So I don’t dare say any ridiculous, silly phrase like He will never give you more than you can handle because I know that I am weak but He is strong.  Amen and amen.

whom I write for

Who is your audience? is a question every writer faces in the midst of creative work.  For me, the question has kind of morphed into For whom am I writing this?  In other words (for me), Whom do I most want to please with this work?

It’s different answers for different things.  For example, with Lights All Around, my first novel, the answer was

1) God.
2) Other obsessive-compulsives.
3) My writing community.
4) Myself.

With my second novel, Truest, I have found the answer to be

1) God.
2) Myself.
3) John Green.

I hadn’t really thought through this much until the other day at work when I was talking to some coworkers about how desperately I wanted John Green to like the story I was writing.  Am I crazy?  Maybe.

How about you, writing friends?  What does your list look like?  Does it change from project to project?

literature, time, and other thoughts

They were drawing me.  The books.

It was like my car was on autopilot– I thought I was headed to Dunn Bros, but when I drove past it, I wasn’t surprised.  Instead, I just let my car take me to Barnes and Noble.

It’s been a little while since I have been here.  Now that I have a membership and have free shipping, I’ve been buying most of my books online.  Today it wasn’t enough.  I had to be with them, surrounded by them, which is why I am drinking a banana chocolate smoothie, typing on my laptop alone, but feeling like I am in the company of friends– or future friends.

To be honest, I feel a little overwhelmed.  There are so many books I want to read, I don’t know when I’m going to find time to get to them all.  I perused the “Summer Reading” table and found more that intrigued me.  From where I sit, I can see the “New Fiction” shelves, and I wonder if I’ll ever have a book there.

I feel pulled so many ways.  I want to readreadREAD, but I am trying to balance that out with plenty of time for writing, which I love even more.  But my writing is informed and inspired by what I read, so I have to keep fueling that fire.  Those two activities alone could keep me busy until I die, I think, and yet– I have even more important things in my life than these.

People.  God.

I know everyone gets 24 hours a day, but I wish I could have more.  How am I supposed to be a loving, caring daughter and friend while working fulltime and writing a novel and feeding an obsessive reading habit– all while never neglecting my true love Jesus Christ and his church?

Praise God that OCD is no longer demanding so much of my attention.  How did I manage?  It feels like a different lifetime.

And yet, I have friends who do all this and take care of a spouse and children.  It boggles my mind.

I want my life to matter, want to leave a mark.  It seems difficult to do when my interests are so spread– I worry that my efforts in each area will be lacking because I didn’t have enough time invested into each one.

I think that one of the reasons I decided to keep a list of books I have read and reviewed (click THE READER tab above) was to try to organize at least one part of my life.  When I sit here in the bookstore, surrounded by all this brilliance, I know that there will be corners I never explore.  Somehow maybe this will help me keep better control of the labyrinth I’m in.

And what a beautiful labyrinth.

Christianity is weird.

And I love that.

C.S. Lewis once described it as “a religion you could not guess.”  I love that too.

How bizarre: a 3-in-1 God who speaks things into existence.  A God who wraps himself in human flesh.  A savior whose method of victory is death.

Fascinating.  I am proud to be a Christian, eager to plumb these mysteries as long as I live.

Why Christians Should Write

Jesus Christ is a believer’s gravity; he infuses meaning and purpose into our lives and tethers us to reality through the Body and the Blood.  There is no story more fascinating, mysterious, devastating, resplendent, and sanguine than the gospel, and this is the reason we need more Christian writers in the United States to write and be published.  Believers have an incredible capacity for story—true story—which is our duty and privilege to share.  When we weave gospel truths into our stories—even when we whisper or our voices shake—those stories assume deeper meaning, exactly what the world craves, whether knowingly or not.  Tales with no hint of the divine, no rumor of a Savior, may often be a poor investment, a squandering of what might have been.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”  Books written by Christians are just such miracles, stories that are able to be held, while the Great Story, instead, holds us.

stunning realization

I have recently gone through (and am still enduring) a very humiliating experience.

While praying the other night, I believe the Holy Spirit opened up my eyes to see it in a whole new light:

Wow, Jesus, I just LOVE the way that You handled the Pharisees.  You are so smart and stunning and clever, and You just OWNED them!

It’s interesting to me that those moments– the ones when You seemed most powerful– would not end up being the cornerstone events of history.  Instead it was the CROSS that would– the moment you looked weakest, most defeated, completely ashamed, and beneath the feet of the Pharisees.

HELP ME TO REMEMBER THIS!  These days may end up being the days that define me.  That is startling a little.  God, give me grace, poise, maturity, integrity, favor as I undergo this humiliating experience.  God let me use this time to IDENTIFY with Your Son.

Jesus, my shame is nothing compared to what You went through, and yet You endured it sinlessly.  Give me the strength to do likewise.  Make me humble.  How could I forget that it is You who are the Humble Servant?  This whole experience may serve to make me LIKE YOU.

You understand my feelings even better and more deeply than I do.  Let me be worthy of this humiliation.

motivation

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
Luke 9:51

Christ knows what lies ahead for him: Gethsemane, betrayal, a cat o’ nine tails raking him over, and the crucifixion (from which comes the word excruciating), not to mention the weight of the world’s sin on his shoulders as he becomes a curse and his father looks away.

And yet he set his face to go to Jerusalem.  He steeled himself for what was ahead.  He determined to move in the direction of these horrors.

It inspires me.