On the Friday before Easter, a few years ago, I attended a Tenebrae service that transformed my spiritual understanding. It was an excruciatingly solemn ceremony marking Jesus’ impending crucifixion. The choir sang in gut wrenching flats, mournful and soulful.. and as the lights dimmed marking the end and the candles were extinguished, a group of men hoisted up the wooden cross and silently, slowly, followed the pastor and the choir out of the sanctuary. I can still hear (and feel) the echo of those heavy doors slamming shut.
And there we sat huddled together in devastating darkness.. aware of, but not seeing, each other..contemplating what life would be like in a world without Jesus. The gravity of the void pulled me under.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” John 3:16-17
This past week from hell made me realize that a world without Jesus is in fact much worse than just darkness and silence –It is a world without forgiveness.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31
This past week from hell demonstrated the futility and fury of life in a world where your mistakes and mine are cataloged and stored like silver bullets – saved for the perfectly timed kill shot.
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Micah 7: 18-19
And no, I’m not insinuating that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty or that Professor Ford is lying..I’m just sitting here in the disorienting darkness of this week from hell imagining how different my life would be if all the heartless, gutless, reckless, and mindless acts I ever committed were continually added to an ‘open tab’ that I’d actually have to pay one day.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
I am also imagining how different my life would be if I had spent the last 3+ decades waiting for just the right moment to ambush and crush the life of the guy who actually did to me what Dr. Ford feared might be done to her.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 16:14-15
But you see if I went after him, I’d have to “go after” others..some who hurt me on a much deeper and personal level.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18: 21-22
And again, I’m far from perfect myself.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13
It’s painfully loud in this hell where so many seem to have pitched their tents this week. It’s hot and angry, bulging with a seething vengeance that is re-birthed as new every morning. It’s source of fuel is a seemingly endless river of puritanical self righteousness and a willingness to persecute others to the end of time..or at least to a corner table at the local restaurant.
It’s been a week where I’ve been re-introduced to the hell that is life without mercy, grace and forgiveness.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
So yeah, the horrible chaos of the past few days brought me right back to that Tenebrae service and the hollowed out emptiness I felt sitting in complete darkness, drowning in the despair of a world devoid of love, grace and forgiveness.
Dear friends, this week from hell is what that looks like.