Do me (and yourself) a favor. Turn off all your lights, quiet your mind and body, and listen to this song with your heart. It’s called Answer, by Sarah McLaughlin.
If you’re feeling especially in need of a good cry, watch the video.
I heard this song a few days ago when I was searching for another song from the same album, and I felt in my heart this song could be a meditation on Good Friday – the passion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and one of my best friends.
I listened to it when I woke up this morning. What does Good Friday even mean? Each year as I get a little older, my answer gets a little simpler. A few years ago I’d have written a compelling reflection on substitutiary atonement. Today, the crucifix means one thing: none of us – Christian, Jewish, gay, not even the Son of God himself – is immune from persecution for being ourselves, whatever that looks like.
I believe that’s what my best friend meant when He told me to pick up my cross and follow Him. He wasn’t commanding me to be a perfect martyr; He looked at my shortcomings, my imperfections, my quirks, my skin and hair, and all the qualities I wish God would remove or heal, and He told me I need to embrace them. Embrace my sickness and sadness, when everything in me wants to walk away and be some dazzling white version of myself I can’t even imagine, who never sins, who never swears, who never entertains resentments or impure fantasies or jealousy or contempt. He looked at my beautiful, tender heart and He asked me to be willing to let it be broken when people betray or mock or simply don’t understand me.
And as I follow my best friend to the foot of His cross every Good Friday (and plenty of other days throughout the year too), I hear His own prayer and pray for the grace to be able to repeat His words: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
He was the Son of God, yet He chose not to fight those who nailed Him to the cross. It truly is, in the words of Saint Paul, “something to be grasped.”
When I was about six years old, I asked my father on Good Friday what it meant that it was the day Jesus died. I couldn’t grasp the idea of something happening 2,000 years ago. I was worried, at six years old, that He was being crucified that very day.
He is. A cursory scroll through social media reveals that a man I love very much is being mocked and ridiculed right now. So are the people who love Him, and by extension, so am I. It breaks my heart. I want to obey my God when He commands me to love my neighbor as I love myself. Every religious faith on earth shares that common precept. I want to fight the injustice, but that is not what Jesus would do. He chose not to defend Himself. He became weak.
And yet, since when is the defensive a position of strength? In choosing not to fight, we choose a strength far greater than the strength of the powerful bullies. We are exalted, even as we suffer very real pain.
If it takes my whole life, I won’t break and I won’t bend. There may be days when I feel completely buried under the weight of my imperfections and brokenness. Moments of despair and hopelessness. Days when it seems the darkness has won not just the battle, but the whole damn war. The night is indeed unkind.
Cast me into Easter morning.