Thursday, April 22, 2004

So I finally went to see the Passion of the Christ...

The evening was a cool one, the gentle early spring breeze playing lightly with the new bright green leaves on the trees outside my house, darkened by the recent rain. But I didn’t notice. I bustled around the house, having just spoken with my mum about my financial woes (end of the semester is always fun for a student on a financial aid budget). I must admit I was feeling mildly annoyed with God… the One who said that He’d provide all my needs… to say the least it’s been tight lately. Yes I know I was being silly, so much like the Israelites am I… recipient of so many blessings, yet so quick to complain and question when a new trial comes up. I was mildly peeved, tearing through my desk drawers and pant pockets, searching for the 10 dollar bill I was almost certain I had somewhere.
I had been invited to see a showing of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” at the local theatre… and the show was to start at 7. Heather said she’d come pick me up about ten till, so I was hurrying so as to be ready by then. I didn’t find the money by the time Heather came, and I almost decided not to go… but for some reason I felt like I needed to. So checkbook in hand and a not so good attitude in heart, I ran out the door- slamming it needlessly. We went into the theatre and took our seats in arguably the smallest room in the place… there were only 4 other people besides the three of us. We were joking around, as usual, discussing what other people had thought of the film, why it was this, why it was that… you know the debates that have occurred. Suddenly the lights dimmed as the previews for the next blockbusters and the advertisements for the advertising space ceased… the show had begun. What took place in the next 2 and ½ hours is difficult for me to describe… by the time Jesus had been carried off to the temple from the garden I noticed tears in Heather’s eyes. I thought that I’d not be so affected. I’d rather not talk so much about the rest. I wept.
I thought back to when I was very young, how my mom and dad had so painstakingly taught us about God, and His Son. Although I’m sure I’d heard the message many times, when I was five years old I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus and believed Him to be who my mama said He was. I grew, and we attended church, my parents continued to teach me to seek the Lord with my whole heart, to lean not to my own understanding, to refer to the verse oft quoted by my dad for as long as I can remember. When I was older I drifted some… becoming like many young people raised in Christian homes, rather complacent, and taking that gift that I’d received so very much for granted.
I was jolted from my reverie by the screams of the actor portraying my Lord as the cat o’nine tails tore jagged clefts in his flesh… I felt my throat tighten. My thoughts skipped ahead a few years, to my departure from home to enter the university… I though of those dark years… my faith almost faltered… I thought of how I had denied the faith of my youth… how I had almost turned my back on the One my parents had said was the meaning of life. I felt the hot tears come again to my eyes. I thought of how deep I had sunk, how far I had run… then the flashback of Jesus writing in the sand as the accusers of the guilty woman stood on with stones in hand, I cried again as he raised the woman to her feet- her condemners gone. I thought of how far the Lord has brought me in the last two years… since He became real to me… since I had accepted His hand and began the long journey out of agnosticism. The film continued and so did my thoughts… I watched with horror as they slowly murdered Him… as you and I slowly murdered Him… we all gasped as the nails were driven… at the gut wrenchingly horrid thud of the cross falling into the hole prepared for it… as He looked up to heaven and asked His Father to forgive them. I stared quietly as He died.
Suddenly the film was over… the lights came on, the credits were rolling. I got up with the last scene of the risen Lord walking from the open tomb emblazoned on my mind… even now it still lingers. As we walked out into the clear Iowa night air we were all completely silent beneath the vast array of God's handiwork… there was nothing to say that would fully do justice to what we were all thinking. We rode home, mumbling goodnight as we parted company… all of us with our own thoughts… none of us particularly wanting to interact with anyone.
I half stumbled over Charlie as I entered my darkened house and hit my knees… I didn't bother to get up... I started thinking of the earlier flashback to Peter… so zealous… yet denying his Lord. I was ashamed of myself, for complaining, for doubting, for the times I’d compromised… the times I'd skirted the subject when I could have said something... the times I’d denied Him by my silence. I cried.
As I asked His forgiveness for my failures, for my errors, and expressed my gratitude again as best I could during this time of acute cognizance of what my Lord had and has done… I felt a new peace sweep over my being as I was reminded again by the Holy Spirit of the love that drew Christ to His sacrifice… the love that would not let me go. I felt clean and new inside as I looked up from the couch I’d crashed face down on… I owe Him everything.

"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new." -II Corinthians 5:17

"He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay…"

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