Here we are. The last week of Lent.
Perhaps during the past few weeks we have taken the opportunity to reflect on our lives, made some form of sacrifice, or reconnected with our faith and trodden the path of Christ. If we have truly participated during this Holy season we would have discovered that that very path is littered with discomfort, quiet, times of sadness, and perhaps a new realisation that some form of personal change is needed to grow in our inner life with God.
Christ came to die for us and to save us. That is the essential message. But before that death He willingly suffered a painful and drawn-out journey of struggle, rejection, humiliation, and being pushed from pillar to post by those who wanted Him out of their way. This young carpenter’s son – how dare He say that He is the Son of God!
We hear that same message every year don’t we? About His journey from the rapturous Palm Sunday welcome procession, to the torture of His scourging, crowning with thorns, being mocked, ridiculed, made to carry His own heavy cross, and then horribly nailed to it. How do we feel knowing that we will hear about those events again soon? Can we allow ourselves to let it sink in a bit deeper this year?
We need to hear it, feel it, and believe it to the very core of our hearts because He did it just for us. Yes, for you. Yes, for me. The very ones who read this now, and who possibly believe that you are most unworthy of His loving sacrifice. It is stupendous, isn’t it? This Lamb of God. This Royal King. This humble Shepherd. And yes, this carpenter’s son. He calmly endured it all for us because He wants to have us so much by His side, together with His Father and the Holy Spirit in Heaven.
Before we get there though, we have to live this Lenten life. We must often endure difficult times, not just during Lent, but throughout our entire time on earth. To be a Christ-follower means being prepared to bear those challenges, as much as we do not like or want them. But the good news is that we will emerge on the other side as strong ‘resurrection’ people, just like He did. We will become people of character, worthy of occupying the rooms of His Father’s House.
In 2004 I had the opportunity to climb the spire of my church with some others (yes, that is the spire pictured above, to the very pointy top). It was a spontaneous offer and decision to do so, but one that I knew I would regret if I did not take it up in that moment. It was very risky, and one slip could have meant serious injury or worse, but climbing those steep old wooden ladders, getting my hands dusty, and having the courage to keep going was well worth the history lesson and beautiful views outside the little windows along the way.
It was a hot 40 degrees Celsius outside, with bright sunshine, but when we reached the spire tip inside we were in total darkness. I stayed there on that narrow wooden ledge beneath the point, and stood for a while. I had to make a decision. It was the final goal of my journey upwards. Would I or wouldn’t I climb that teeny tiny metal ladder and touch the tip with my fingers? It was too dark. I had also made the mistake of looking back all the way down before I could stop myself. There was a dead-straight vertical drop that seemed to go on forever. I am not so good with heights, so considered it a great achievement to have gone so far. Good enough for me. I decided not to climb further, and so began the journey back down.
Not long after this, within the same year, I suddenly had to grapple with new and many changes in my faith and church life. It was a monumentally difficult time. I often recalled my spire climb and felt that it was a clear turning point in my life – things were great before that time, but totally different afterwards. It took me years to deal with, and in many ways things have never been the same since. Tectonic plates shift during an earthquake and they cannot be put together the way they were. You just have to get on with it, but you never really quite get over it; experiences change you.
I felt then, and still believe now, that God was preparing me through that challenging spire climb for the spiritual obstacles that would come my way. Just like I had placed my life in the hands of my fellow spire-climbing guide, I had to place myself in God’s hands and let Him show me the way up. There will always be difficult journeys in life, but He waits for you at the summit.
So don’t look back down like I did on that ledge. Don’t remember how scared you really are, nor focus on the fact that your heart is thumping. Remember that going through the Lenten journey is a necessary part of the climb to Christ. Please do not be ‘good enough’ for God. Be daring enough to keep climbing, and grab hold of His hands which are reaching out to you in the faintly emerging light of His coming Easter glory. Fix your eyes on what He went through, and put one foot in front of the other.
It won’t be long now. Our Brother, our Redeemer, our Best Friend, the Lord, is at the top.
- Photo of St Ignatius’ Church and crucifix statue copyright Yvonne P, 2018
- Image of hands courtesy of turnbacktogod.com
- Background image of clouds courtesy of pexels.com