It’s only a few days since we waved our pine branches found in the woods — yeah, no exotic palm fronds here on the farm — and we sang our Hosanna! Hosanna! — literally Save Us! Save us! Because here we are in a global pandemic believing God can literally save us all in the realest ways, even now.
If our soul is safe, all is safe.
I try to keep the news a bit at bay, but most of our grown kids children sit down at our dinner table eager to slice and dice the headlines like they are ready cut up their pork chops, savor what is good, and then spit out any bones.
While they talk about how the news is saying this week could be the worst of the pandemic thus far, the death toll and body bags in North America overwhelming health care workers, crushing family’s hearts and bringing us all collectively to our knees, I light the candles on our Lent wreath.
It’s the beginning of the Holiest Week of the year.
Whatever peaks this week, we can stay communing with Him on an interior mountain peak.
I move the figurine of Jesus carrying the cross forward on the Lenten wreath. His back’s bent, His shoulders bearing, His heart breaking. Jesus never stops crying with us. I linger, memorize Jesus’ cross-carrying silhouette.
Whatever cross we’re carrying grows light when we let Jesus carry us.
However hard this week is, this was Jesus’ hard week & He overcame & if we come to Him, we can too.
It’s true that much of the world is shuttered behind doors right now, countless praying for the angel of death to pass over us. Yet no waters will pass over us, because with Jesus, there is only passing through.
No one knew that this Lent would ask us to embrace the depths of loss — to embrace more of God.
And no one knows what this week will ask of us, or next week, or the week after.
But I can’t stop thinking of what my friend, Sam, said to me a few days ago when I asked him: “What does cruciform love looks like in this season?”
What does it look to live formed and shaped like a cross at this particular moment?
I thought he would talk about living surrendered. I thought he would talk about living given. I thought he would say something practical, but at least something I expected.
“Love that’s truly cruciform, is truly vulnerable enough — that the heart gets hurt.”
My breath kinda caught.
Cruciform love forms itself open & vulnerable enough that hurt can walk right in.
Cruciform love bares its vulnerable heart — and willingly bears the cost.
Cruciform love isn’t afraid of pain — because it trusts there’s more to gain.
I pick up the cross-carrying wooden carving of Jesus headed to Calvary and there it is, there is Love Himself:
God is love — thus only He gets to define love.
And He defines love as cross-shaped, cross-formed, stretched out, formed into a reaching givenness that leaves the heart breathtakingly vulnerable.
The journey of this historic, painful Holy Week carries us all into a kind of holy of holies:
Unless love is formed vulnerable enough to know suffering and loss — it’s not cruciform: it is malformed.
It’s hard to believe this surreal Holy Week where we are we wearing masks, sheltering in place and staying in God our dwelling place, because this is how we actually love our neighbor.
And yet, we can still keep practicing being being vulnerable with people, still keep practicing being vulnerable with what we’ve been given, because isn’t this how we keep practicing our faith? Isn’t that what love ultimately always means: you leave yourself vulnerable.
Leave yourself open to losing, open to pain, open to suffering, open to real cost.
It’s always been the Christ-followers through the ages who have practiced their faith to serve and love others even when it’s vulnerable. The Christ-followers who have practiced their faith to vulnerably give up convenience and comfort, even when it means real loss. And it’s the Christ-followers who have followed the Love-Man Himself who opened wide His arms to leave His heart vulnerable enough to hurt — so others could be healed.
When patience wears thin this week or hope seems to fade or expectations kinda crack, when the family down the street runs out of grocery money or hospitals start to run out of beds, when medical needs overwhelm or our personal and collective grief overwhelms, it’s Christ’s true followers who show up and find ways to love vulnerably enough to bear the cost.
We may prepare for deep losses this week, exactly because we have practiced a love that’s vulnerable enough to lose.
The trials may be under our roofs, in our relationships or expectations, or our communities, our cities, our global family, but the bottom line is:
How can our hearts not be called to make real sacrifices — when that’s exactly what His heart did for us?
This week, the Love-Man not only shows us how to live cruciform love — He will be a current of cruciform love through us especially when we don’t know how.
When you leave yourself vulnerable, real love never leaves you.
The kids have moved on from discussing the news. The serving bowls of greens, of beans, have moved around the table. The figure of Christ is moving through Holy Week, moving toward Calvary. And it’s my own broken heart that’s deeply moved.
Cruciform love lets hurt walk into its heart.
Cruciform love is formed vulnerably enough to lose comfort — because this is the only way true Love wins.
The wooden silhouette of Jesus bows low before the candles all lit. Did not the heart within burns with the realization:
Christ will rise victorious this week — but it will look like the vulnerability of suffering loss.
And even this week, we can all rise victorious — if we practice the art of a vulnerable love that’s open to suffering and losing.
There at the center of the table, the Lenten wreath’s candles flicker and wave, like they know what could save us all even now.
Three Resources for the Hardest Holy Week:
Free Printable to download for everything you need for Easter-At-Home…