Friday, April 22, 2011

Peter and Jesus, My Good Friday Story

I wrote this a few years ago as I was reflecting about my life as one who betrays my relationship with Jesus daily and how my story is not unlike that of Peter. As I seek to try again daily, I thought about the defeat and pain Peter must have felt as he considered his denial of Christ. How often do we all become the very thing we despise and do the very thing we swore we would never do? Here's to a joyous Good Friday...because Jesus has insured that our failures are never final.

My eyes are wide open…moist, red, swollen and weary, but wide open. The first piercing sliver of light arrives, announcing the morning, as it meets my focused gaze. As the rays penetrate the heavy slate blanket of morning fog, life begins anew for God’s creation. As the new morning springs forth, I remain constant…not constant in a state of life, but constant in a perpetual and continual death.
        Oh that my broken heart would grow numb…that the shattered pieces would bring purpose or just resonate within a calling. That a spark may be found deep within me, that a cold zeal could blaze again, it could be reworked, revived, renewed. And yet…nothing. I am as cold as the stone on which I sit. I am as still as the stagnant night air. I am as dead as Lazarus. 
        My bowels are the bowels of Judas. Sitting in the midst of his spilling is my reminder. Apparently I need a reminder, a constant one, one that will never allow me to deny him again. As the sun rises, the stench of his rotting corpse will again infiltrate and saturate my nostrils. As the heat grows more and more intense, the opportunistic, ravenous birds will reappear and the parasitic creatures will again morph before my eyes, grow wings and leave the disaster that has been their daily bread.
        My wife and friends beg me to leave this place. They stopped coming as the skies became a floating shadow of flies. Now they stand only at a distance, begging with their eyes, their number growing smaller by the day. Yet I sit here, unmoved, unwavering, unforgiving. I sit here a coward. At least Judas tossed his prize of betrayal back at his personal vipers. At least Judas had the realization of his sin, of his brokenness-and he did in the physical what was already true in the spiritual realm. But not me. I live in the physical, a fa├žade, an inauthentic replica of my rottenness. And how do I return my silver; at whom do I heave it? My silver is less tangible, not less deadly, just less sensate. How do I return dignity, to whom do I hand honor and what will one exchange for friendship…how about the betrayal of friendship? I can throw it all at myself…I can be angry at myself. I wasn’t tricked, I wasn’t controlled…it is just who I am.
        When the meat to feed the scavengers is gone and only dry bones remain, who will have me? Will my children desire a dad who fails the King in the heat of battle? Will my wife wish for a husband to return from a 3 year retreat-return after denying the very person for whom she suffered loneliness and an empty bed for the last 3 years? Who will be my brother? Who will trust me with even a little? It is laughable to think of ever walking in the light of honor, trust, love or respect. That will be my price; my contrition will come from suffering a private desolation-ironically that is so fitting since just hours ago I sentenced my Lord to an emotional wilderness with 3 statements. He died alone. I secured that sentence for him and now I will live out the sentence for him…prisoner by proxy. My life would be better contributed if my entrails also exploded over the jagged edges of the rock beneath my feet. I would best be used as another dinner for the scavengers, another host for the maggots.
        But a voice in the distance cried out to me. It is Mary and she is running toward me. She will halt once the foul odor sickens her, for who will possibly come into the darkness to bring one into the light? As she gets closer it becomes obvious that she isn’t offended by the horrific scene. My spiritual stench isn’t offensive to her, she continues running. Her moist eyes, being dried by the wind, speak volumes of hope, acceptance and love. Her eyes remind me of the eyes of Jesus. The eyes who burned white…the eyes that burned through my eyes, directly into my heart on the black evening of his capture, of my betrayal. For the first time I stood, anxiously awaiting her words, her message. “The tomb is empty”. I must have misunderstood, as my eyes questioned her words, she paused enough to slow the heaving of her chest and she clearly exclaimed that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. The stone was rolled away and he has risen. Surely thieves stole the body, I questioned. Then she said her information wasn’t from man, but from God…from an angel of the Lord, here to proclaim now and forever that He is risen. I asked her to tell me every word the angel spoke and she then spoke the words that salved my wounds, the words that instantly returned the inferno deep within the fabric of my very being. “Go tell the disciples AND PETER…” I didn’t listen to the rest of it too well. The Angel of the Lord said, “and Peter”…I am included, I am not cast out and I am not forever lost, eternally unclean. In His rising, I too can rise. In His life, I too can live. Through His stripes, I am healed. The stone has rolled back in place, only this time entombing death, shame and sin. Death, where is your sting? Sin, where are the shackles used by you for too long? You are removed, unlocked with a key, held by the pierced hands of the One who was, who is and who is to come.
        I will not fall in this way again. I will go to my own death on a cross before I allow Him to be symbolically sent there again. My lips will not deny. My life will not deny. I will repay His death with my life and His new life with my death. When again will I embrace my Brother, my Friend, my Lord? It will be soon…and then forever more.