Last night, the kids and I made pancakes for our Shrove Tuesday dinner. Since Rob died, life has lost much of its sweetness, so I decided to give up refined sugar for Lent. Always one to burn out rather than fade away, I figured we’d go big for dinner since I’d be leaving sweets behind for the next 40 days. We pulled out the whipped cream, the maple syrup, the honey and powdered sugar — all fixins’ — and had a raucous sugar-fueled Mardi Gras supper. (For Rob’s writing on Lent and fasting, read here.)
When I directed children’s ministries in our Anglican church in Seattle, I always loved the words we spoke in children’s worship each Sunday during Lent. This is the season of Lent … the time we get ready to celebrate the mystery of Easter … the time we are all on the way to Jerusalem. But who will show us the way? Jesus will show us the way. These words echoed in my heart last night as the kitchen filled with flour, the air seasoned with sweetness. Amidst the clouds of powdered sugar, we are beginning our journey to Jerusalem. We are joining Jesus as He goes to die.
Since Rob died, I have longed to be near this Jesus condemned to die. I’ll be honest. It’s been hard to find him in church. We evangelicals avoid a bleeding, wounded Christ. We prefer Him standing beside the burial garments, tomb agape and empty. For most of us Protestants, Jesus hasn’t been on a cross since John Calvin took Him off in the Reformation. We prefer to think of ourselves as people of the resurrection, the cross a dramatic albeit silent silhouette in the back of the picture. We like a Jesus on the other side of suffering, His scarred hands more a mark of accomplishment than of pain.
Yet, Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life because first he died. Some may shudder at the image of Jesus on a crucifix. Since Rob’s death, I don’t do that anymore. Rather, in these days of my deep grief, I’ve found solace in Him hanging there. The world may struggle to understand my pain, but the crucified Jesus knows. Grief is suffering born of love. The cross reminds me He knew this too. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Jesus’ intimate acquaintance with my grief was more than intellectual. He felt it in His bones. When I survey the wondrous cross my sorrow finds acknowledgement and rest.
Richard Baxter, the great Puritan churchman and poet wrote, “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than He went through before.” This is the central truth of Lent. In this annual recalibration of the spirit, Jesus calls me to companion Him toward the cross. In doing so, He reminds me that no path I’ve ever taken is one He has not walked before me. No sorrow I’ve ever borne is one He has not carried for me. And this suffering born of love? This is the currency of His grace.
For the next 40 days, we are all on the way to Jerusalem. We will walk this season, and in this life, through darkness and pain and deep grief. Who will show us the way? Jesus will show us the way. The way through suffering. The way to love and life. The way of the cross.