I wrote this a while back for Holy Week, but it feels apropos for today...
As a person that did not grow up in the Church, I have been continuously shocked at the way that American mainstream Christianity seems to skim over the shocking reality of Jesus's walk to the cross, then into death, and then resurrection.
We tend to look at the path from the perspective of hindsight. In other words, we know the ending. The suspense is eliminated, because we know it turns out okay in the end. We know that God delivers on the promise of resurrection. We know that Jesus ascends to Heaven.
But what about pausing to consider the journey on a moment by moment basis? What about removing hindsight and placing ourselves into the present moment alongside Jesus as he began the journey to the cross?
The pattern of walking into the unknown - and suffering there - can be found throughout the Bible, from Moses to Abraham to Jesus and more. The great Philosopher/Theologian Soren Kierkegaard dissected this theme throughout many of his writings, but most notably in "Fear and Trembling." Kierkegaard explored the story of Abraham...asking us to imagine the suffering of walking for three days KNOWING that God has asked you to kill your son.
Erase the benefit of hindsight - eliminate the knowledge that it turns out okay in the end - stand in the midst of that horrific walk - from that space, faith looks entirely different.
Faith then becomes the humble choice to continue to walk in the way of God, even when the outcome cannot be seen or imagined...even in the midst of great suffering...even when it seems absurd or impossible. Faith is the recognition that even if the very worst happens, God will redeem it...God will turn it into something beautiful...God will give us the strength to endure.
I spend a great deal of time contemplating the path of Jesus to the cross and beyond. He was betrayed, mocked, tortured, and crucified. He suffered more than any human at the hands of fellow humans claiming to do the work of God. He both cried out to God to forgive his persecutors, AND he questioned God from a place of deep human suffering ... "Why hast thou forsaken me?" But this was not enough. Jesus was then sent to Hell for three days only to then return to Earth for 40 days....and it was only after that incredibly long and painful road that he finally ascended to Heaven.
In the Apostles Creed, the above journey is recited, from the perspective of hindsight. Pausing again to imagine what Jesus endured on a moment to moment basis...not knowing if God was going to deliver on the promise of resurrection...the journey begins to take on a different feel...one that is so powerful that it should both inspire and deeply offend our human sensibilities.
God became fully human. God was tortured. God was crucified. God endured unimaginable suffering. And in doing so, God gave us the prototype of what it really means to LOVE.
How can I be more LOVING? How can I endure the pain of the present moment, allow myself to cry out to God (as Jesus did), and simultaneously deepen the vessel of LOVE within my spirit?