Preparing for Easter (Saturday): The Borrowed Tomb

tombNow there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. Luke 23:50-52 

And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief.     Isaiah 53:9-10a ESV 


When He walked the earth and breathed our air, my Lord said He had nowhere to lay His head. And here in death, here He lays in a borrowed tomb. A man of means came forward to preserve my Savior’s dignity and lay Him to rest in the earth He Himself created before the start of time.

The mystery… it’s too much for me to understand, too much for me to reconcile.

The very God who wrote a love story at the beginning of time included His own suffering in the darkest chapter.

The very God who wrote a love story at the beginning of time included His own suffering in the darkest chapter.  

I look around, and I see myself reflected in the eyes of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I see their brokenness, and it mirrors mine.

I see the violence in my heart – an unkind thought, a judgment, an annoyance, a scorn. But my sweet Jesus – there was no violence in His hand, and none was found even in the deepest crevices of His heart where no one sees.

And I find myself deceived over and over again by a culture that clashes with the truth. I cringe as I hear myself speak error not only to others, but to myself, as I whisper doubt and end up believing lies. But my Rescuer, there was no deceit in His mouth. He spoke no wrong. He gave no empty threats, no empty promises.

But here He lay in that borrowed tomb after enduring my cross.

My Jesus, the Author of the greatest love story — He could have defeated and even prevented His own suffering. But He wrote chapter after chapter in which He Himself was misunderstood, and mocked, and tortured, and betrayed. And here He lay abandoned. Here he lay alone, crushed by the very story He wrote to save me.

And dare I ask Him why?! Dare I ask Him to interpret His mystery? His thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are His ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than this earth, higher than this cold, cold tomb, His ways are higher. His thoughts are higher. His story is much, much deeper and intricate than I could ever write.

So do I trust Him? When I am crushed, do I trust the God who wrote suffering into His own plot? When I choke on grief, do I surrender to the One who poured Himself out as an offering to mankind, spilling His grace everywhere?

Sweet Jesus, my Rescuer, my greatest Hope, I lean into the mystery I can’t understand. I collapse into your redemption plan. But I grieve as you lay there bruised and alone.

Series on Suffering: An Introduction

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Suffering impacts everything. It reaches beyond our circumstances and grabs our hearts, influencing how we interact with others, how we view ourselves, and even how we view the gospel. If you’ve engaged with Repurposed for any length of time (or if you’ve watched from afar), you’ve read numerous posts about wrestling and surrender. The stamp of suffering has imprinted almost all we hold dear.

But I absolutely love that I was born into my generation. And I’m even more grateful my kids were born into theirs. Let me explain…

I live amongst a generation encouraged by the Church to live authentically… to share our secrets… to reveal the brokenness in our lives. And in all of it, while the impact of sin seems so vast, the cross, well, it towers over the brokenness. It’s big enough to cover all the shame and mistakes and regrets.

And I believe God is glorified when we admit our desperation for Him.

I look forward to meeting King David someday – warrior, national leader, and… um, poetry writer. I wonder if he planned for his words to be “wisdom literature” as many theologians categorize the Psalms. But nonetheless, the man after God’s own heart, the man given over to his lust, the schemer — he knew how to be real. And I do mean real.  He wasn’t afraid to tell God like it was. He wasn’t scared to “go there”. He identified his pain, he processed it over and over, and he finally surrendered. Over and over. Healthy guy, that King David was.

During the month of February, you’ll be invited into the pain of others’ lives. It’s sort of fitting, don’t you think? It’s Black History Month, and while we celebrate accomplishments and success, we can’t ignore that all that redemption rose out of pain. All that beauty was resurrected out of oppression. It’s the Valentines month, too, and suffering, no doubt, repurposes our hearts through and through, whether we’re ready for the transformation or not.

Back in 2012, I sat down with men and women and crafted a Series on Suffering for my original blog out of those conversations. We examined events, reactions, coping… and of course, redemption, too.

Because Repurposed is about surrendering, begging God to transform us, and then impacting those around us, I thought it was fitting to touch base with those original men and women and see how they’re doing — four years later.

Miscarriage and infertility, a marriage ended by cancer, parenting a physically disabled child, an eating disorder. We’re hitting some hard ones. These people have stories that are common — but are often behind closed doors.

Many of us–even in our increasingly open and authentic generation–don’t pursue these topics with our friends who are living them. We don’t know what to say.

And when the pain is our own, we also stare at the terrifying chapters of our stories in silence. Alone. Waiting to be pursued. Waiting for insight to help sort out the mess. And with the passing of days, we detach ourselves more from the pain, from others, and even from our own hearts. It’s really confusing to be the victim.

So for the next month, I’ll be posting different interviews that were held a few years ago followed by an update (in the person’s own words) the next day. I’m grateful these incredible, ordinary people are willing to talk again. They’re inviting us back into their private pain. And I’m confident the hope of redemption is still there.

I ask two things of you. First, please dare to “go there”. Allow yourself to identify with certain aspects of their stories and boldly study your own suffering. Your own reactions.  Your own coping mechanisms. The healing starts there.

And secondly, invite others over to RepurposedShare the interviews and updates with people in your own communities facing similar issues. Allow my friends’ boldness to speak into their suffering. Let’s join God in healing the world, one person at a time.

So, come be a part of this. It’s fitting, don’t you think, that our series will overlap with the start of Lent? While reflecting on suffering, we’ll walk right into the season of preparing our hearts for reflecting on the most vivid representation of suffering and self-sacrifice. May the Rescuer, the Redeemer, be glorified in all of it.

This week’s first conversation will be with a dad who is parenting a severely disabled child. That girl is a teenager now.

See you tomorrow.

The Shield (When Fear Invades)

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Reunión de creyentes. Prayer meeting. It was an hour that would later become a favorite part of each day—a time before dinner to reflect on God’s goodness and beg for His glory to be manifested again. Our team of missionaries and Peruvian seminary students sprinkled the sanctuary in groups of two or three.

But I chose solitude. I needed a shadow. In South America only two days, I couldn’t face another person at the moment.

In recent months—even weeks—I was convinced God was leading me to mission work in Lima, Peru. I heard His call, sensed the Spirit’s confirmation, and prepared with culture and evangelism courses. A summer of ministering lay before me—street evangelism, testifying, and church renovation projects would join together as tools to share God’s Story. The message of redemption would come through our mouths and hands, but at the moment, my heart and body was what needed some restoration.

I used the prayer time that night to whisper fears into my folded arms. What was I thinking?! Did I really hear from God? Why did I leave all that was familiar to work among strangers? Many at home stepped out in faith, funding my experience and praying for a fruitful ministry. Doubts bred guilt over my ungrateful heart longing to be home, but my whispers would not cease.

An hour of self-focused prayer left me exhausted.

Gripping my shoulder, a hand interrupted my thoughts. I turned to face an older Peruvian stranger with an eager smile, a countenance not reflecting my own. Standing, I watched his eyes scan the room for a bilingual friend.

“The Holy Spirit gave me this message for you,” he said confidently through an interpreter. I had never talked to this man before.

Pointing to an English Bible, his finger moved down the page before stopping on words I memorized as a child from Joshua 1:9 ~  Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Stunned, I slowly nodded. “Gracias.” I could think of nothing else to say.

Did that really just happen? Did I really just hear from the God of the universe? And if I did, that means He heard me. It was unreal, but I soon accepted I had actually had a conversation with God.

My doubts were certainly quieted, and hope swallowed fear.

For the rest of the summer, that night served as a shield whenever Satan tried to discourage me. Sensing God’s constant presence, I approached my days with purpose, never to question again why I was in South America.

But time has a way of allowing you to forget.

And almost thirty years later, I need a shield for a whole lot more than loneliness. I feel misplaced way more than I did in Peru. And I question my adequacy more often than that teen missionary girl.

What do you do when you can’t answer your son’s, “Why?”

What do you do when your daughter’s hurting and you clumsily navigate her pain all wrong?

What do you do when middle-age leaves you doubting more than you ever have before?

What about when the ache is so great you can’t describe it to even your most intimate friends?

What then? Because honestly, I feel anything but strong and courageous on most days. The mandate to not be afraid almost seems like a dare.

But that promise, that wind of strength coming after the charge is what I cling to –- For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

And I believe Him.

What do you do when you can’t answer your son’s, “Why?”
I’ve seen His wisdom sweep in and form words in my mouth that resonate to my 13 year-old son’s heart.

What do you do when your daughter’s hurting and you clumsily navigate her pain all wrong?
I’ve felt His grace pry the idol of control out of my arms as His mercy softens her anger. I’ve tasted the sweet reconciliation that I couldn’t have created myself.

What do you do when middle-age leaves you doubting more than you ever have before?
I’ve heard Him invite me countless times to wrestle before landing on truth. He’s not threatened by my questions, and that fact alone brings comfort in my tendency to over-think. My wondering doesn’t mean I’m wandering.

What about when the ache is so great you can’t describe it to even your most intimate friends?
I’ve sat in the quiet as His Spirit really did help me in my weakness. I’ve sensed the relief of being known and have silently heard the Spirit interceding for me through wordless groans.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

Yeah, He’s that Shield that won’t go away because, frankly, the arrows don’t go away either.

Be strong and courageous? Some days. Do not be afraid? Sometimes. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go? I’ll take that.

I’ll hide in the shadow of that Shield.