It’s only a couple of 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!
And the truth is: In a hard world, in Christ, we can still be soul-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 discuss all the things, I light the candles on our Lent wreath.
“Whatever cross we’re carrying grows light when we let Jesus carry us.”
It’s the beginning of the Holiest Week of the year.
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.
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 while back 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.
“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 One who gives life, who gave us His life, is never calling us to stay in abusive, dangerous, toxic places, because He is about giving life, and being life-giving — but outside of those circumstances, He calls us to consider what it means for a life to be cruciform in life-giving ways, in all kinds of places and ways.
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 be open to suffering and loss — it’s not cruciform: it is malformed.
No matter what this season may hold, we can keep practicing being vulnerable with people, 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.
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.
“How can our hearts not be called to make real sacrifices — when that’s exactly what His heart did for us?”
When patience wears thin or hope seems to fade or expectations kinda crack, when the family down the street runs out of grocery money or when 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.
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.
“Cruciform love is formed vulnerably enough to lose comfort — because this is the only way true Love wins.“
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 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. And the heart within burns with the realization:
Christ will rise victorious this week — but it will look like the vulnerability of surrender.
And even this week, we can all rise victorious — if we practice the art of vulnerable love.
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 a Meaningful Holy Week:
for when Holy Week is far from perfect, and you just need a perfect Lamb
- Family program for a deeply meaningful Family Easter
- Free Menu Card
- Table Card
for when you need a garden getaway in the middle of Holy Week
So the thing is, back there in the beginning, we all had this shattering fall in a garden.
And we mark it on the calendar, Christ, falling in the garden of Gethsemane.
Christ, righting our messy fall.
So we put our hands into dirt, and we remember our garden fall and His garden grace,
And we make a Grace Garden for Easter.
for when you’re feeling spiritually dry during Holy Week
After Palm Sunday and before Good Friday, that’s what we eat — the almonds and the figs and the fruit, because by Grace, God can get a fig out of even this dry stick.
- A bowl of Figs – because the authentic Christian life has got to be more than leafage. Faith has to have fruit
- A bowl of almonds – almonds, from a dry rod that budded and blossomed, white almond flowers unfurling this impossible faith by grace. And we remember that these brittle, dry days — they can be kindle for burning bushes and God can come upon the dry bones and they can bud and blossom. And we can eat almonds and taste miraculous fruit from limbs just surrendered.
- A bowl of toothpicks – dry, like dead trees.
- And a small grapevine wreath – a circle like a crown.
- Every time we need to repent, we slip a toothpick into the wreath.
I finger the sharp edge of one brittle point.
And I slip in a toothpick thorn, repenting of fruit that isn’t and believing in Him who is, and it’s there in these hands, this snapped, withered wood that will bear the impossible life and right everything again.
This hope encircling like a crown…
- Every time we need to repent, we slip a toothpick into the wreath.
(the Easter Resources are found under “Free Tools”)
What does it practically look like to follow the life-giving, vulnerable Way of Jesus?
What does it personally look like to form your mind, your days, your life, into the deeply meaningful, cruciform love of Jesus?
What does it powerfully look like to have a way of life, that actually lives the life-giving Way of Jesus?