When we walk around our neighbourhood right now, there are boxes on the nature-strip filled with apples or quinces or lemons or books and little hand-written signs saying, “Help yourself”.
There are pictures of rainbows sticky-taped to windows and teddy bears perched on window ledges so that children can count them as they take exercise with their parents. (We counted 84 in a relatively short block last week!)
My kids receive and deliver snail mail to their friends a few houses away.
And when we pass strangers in the street, stepping wide to obey the government-directed girth, there are smiles and nods warmer than I’ve experienced before.
It’s struck me that, at the end of this, we will all have a shared experience. Have you thought about that? There are very few things in this life that we can say with absolute truthfulness that we have all experienced to some extent.
The pandemic will affect us all differently, of course. I know people quarantined in a hotel room in Sydney right now. Some friends are run off their feet with work, others are working from home with a much reduced workload. Some have lost their livelihood and are knocking on Centrelink’s door. Me? I’ve lost my job and am suddenly looking at the prospect of home-schooling my children for at least second term.
We’re all grieving to an extent. We’re all grappling with change. We’re all beating off fear, and wondering “why?”
It’s easy to throw our head back and scream at the sky, “Why are you doing this to us, God?!” To watch the rising death toll in places like Italy and Spain, the despair in third-world countries, and the fatigue of charity-workers, teachers and healthcare workers—and resolve that, if there’s a god at all, he doesn’t care. That he’s sitting up there on his throne dolling out destruction and shaking his head in disappointment.
On Friday, we remember the day that Jesus died on a brutal cross, nails hammered through his palms, thorns clawing his brow. He hung there having already been whipped and beaten, a spear thrust into his side. Soldiers and onlookers hurled abuse at his broken body. For six long hours he endured this torture before he finally died.
This is my God.
My God who brought himself low, wading through the ditches of human brokenness to show his love for us. He chose this. At any moment, Jesus could have made it stop. With one word he could have ended his own suffering and left humanity to continue in its downwards spiral. The fact that he didn’t speaks to the deep compassion and love inherent in his character.
He is not an unreachable sky god, one who peers down with disdain, issuing icy, unattainable directives. He is a God for us, who loves us so much that he shared this gritty human existence, took the bruises, insults and betrayals so that we have a sure pathway home. Because this uneven ground is not home. You feel it too, don’t you? We have glimpses of home (the apples and quinces, the rainbows and teddy bears, the warm smiles and snail mail), but this is a home disrupted. Our souls yearn for something better.
Before he died, Jesus called out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46).
Jesus, who is God made human, demonstrated one last time before his cruel death how we can endure. Just as he did, we can call on our Father in heaven, whatever our circumstances. Every day, every uneasy minute, we can simply say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And our compassionate Father God hears, leans in, moves.
And oh my, is God moving right now! Yes, he is. He is doing mighty things in this season. Are you seeing them? Are you part of it?
I challenge you, as I am this minute challenging myself, to surrender fear and control to Jesus this Easter, just as he surrendered himself to the Father.