From my front porch, this morning, I got to visit with a new friend who hopes to move into our neighborhood soon. He is coming from my same former “neighborhood”, in a manner of speaking…same schools, same places, same mapped out prescription for success and dignity. At least initially, I have found someone walking in my shoes as closely as I have yet to find and it made me realize just how intensely I have been longing for that kind of understanding.
My world has changed so dramatically in the last two years, even though that change has been coming, in many ways, for a lifetime. But in the past two years I have sort of “broken up” with the culture of my upbringing. Its an amicable divorce, if we want to put it in those terms, but realistically, he’ll keep most of our friends and I’ll be developing an entirely new community. This break up was inevitable, really, because we were both headed in such different directions. Nonetheless, it is disorienting and a bit like a baby bird being tossed out of a nest to go survive in a totally unknown and unfamiliar new world. It is scary. It is lonely. And other than the wind blowing, there is no clear map as to where we’re headed. He got that in the divorce too. I suppose this is what makes encountering another baby bird from the same nest feel so deeply comforting and encouraging.
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6
As strange and different as this uncharted world seems to me, God has it charted. Not only does He have it designed, but He totally knows where I’ve been, what I’ve left and what those little deaths feel like. Better than my potential new neighbor from the same nest, He hems me in behind and before. I so want a friend, outside of my family, who understands the great loss and many losses I have felt in walking away from the reliable map which had always shown me where to go and ensured safe travel. The person and work of Jesus has actually already offered Himself as that very knowing friend. He is beginning to remind me that out of these many deaths, He is providing just as many resurrections…or certainly will in time. But I guess what is also true is that crucifixion is painful.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20
I first memorized this verse at a Young Life camp in high school. I loved it. It sounded so honorable and courageous. It sounded adventurous and bold. It sounded confident and strong. It sounded holy and faithful. I don’t think I really knew what “crucified” actually meant. I don’t think I considered the ripping of tendons or the searing pain of a hammer driving a train track sized nail through bone. I don’t think hundreds of splinters in bare and already burning flesh occurred to me. I don’t think the struggle to breathe freely nor the raw feeling in a throat gasping for breath even entered my mind. I don’t think the shame of physical nakedness or visible pain and vulnerability, the cruelty and loneliness of total abandonment and even mockery, or the despair which settles in as defeat is certain were even taken into consideration as I proclaimed that verse proudly.
I have been and am being crucified with Christ, and my crucifixion will never be as fully dark and painful as His was. But death, no matter the size, is by nature life-sucking and grievous. It is the “with Christ” that makes all the difference. With Christ I suffer loss, but the loss of life is the passage to a “with Christ” new, abundant and permanently unbreakable life eternal. The new creation exposes the first creation as merely a one dimensional magazine advertisement for the real thing. I am invited to share in the pain of crucifixion so that I can share in the oxygen rich air of new life.
He knows the nest from which He has plucked me and identifies better than anyone with the losses I am feeling. And then He invites me to begin identifying with Him in HIS resurrection LIFE.
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; Is. 40:31a