Sometimes an unbearably tragic story deepens my faith and encourages me far more than a host of upbeat messages and praise songs. I found just such a story as I was going through the many materials on the website and in our archives to update and share.
This story comes out of one of our Great Idea Swap Resources, a Holy Week Devotional Guide to the right.
You can click on the image to download the entire booklet and it is a useful sample for an Easter publication you could create for your church. Though there are many things I liked in it that make it a useful, timeless example, following is the one story I'd like to share. I hope, as I know these days ahead of work as you prepare your church for Easter and all the times you are responsible for church communications will be challenging, that in your hardest times, it will encourage you.
It was the third hour when they crucified [Jesus]. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27 They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.
While there are stages of time, there are also miracles in the world, but most of them get missed because we are too busy or too desensitized to them. I’m starting to see them more this week as I look back. I can spot them with regularity, sprinkling my path with drops of miracle, like blood, that will lead to healing and wholeness. But in the ER, like any hospital, it starts with forms, blood tests and the never-ending interrogation of questions.
“Name?” “Birthdate?” “Why are you here?”
It starts with the first nurse you see and then continues with each new nurse and doctor.
“Name?” “Birthdate?” “What’s been going on?” Again and again. Yes, there are periods of time. Epochs when things change from what they’ve been. But in between these different ages, there are the few moments in between when time stops. The doctor walks in and sits down.
"It’s cancer. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. It’s not part of the job that I enjoy."
I realize now that there is no easy way to break this kind of news. It’s better to just say it without any embellishment or corny additions. Just say it. So you sit there and all the air has suddenly left your lungs. You can’t breath and you don’t know what to say. All I want to do is hold Sara’s hand. I reach out for her and we hold onto each other for dear life. For our dear life. The only one we have and one I happen to love.
"But, he’s a young man. He just turned 30." Sara blurts out.
It didn’t seem fair. I had just turned 30 and younger friends asked what it was like.
"Is it a big deal?," they asked, "Were you really upset and did you feel like life had passed you by?"
"No" I said. It wasn’t a big deal. I don’t feel any different and I think I’ve plenty of time to accomplish other things in my life. Well that was just plain old 30. At 30 and 4 months my body started falling apart.
"How bad is it?" I ask.
"Oh, it’s extensive in the abdominal area," he says.
At that moment, I envision my abdomen from the chart I vaguely remember in biology with the stomach, intestines, bladder, pancreas all full of holes like swiss cheese, because the cancer has eaten through it…OR what USED to be stomach, bladder, intestines and pancreas all dissolved into a grey colored gelatinous mass that the surgeon looks at and shakes his head.
"Man, that’s extensive. Just sew him back up and send him home with morphine to enjoy his last few months."
It’s those kinds of thoughts that make no sense at all. They shoot through your mind at the same time and it all seems so real, even though it makes absolutely no sense. I would like to say that in this situation, I had something profound to say….that my faith was so strong and that I made the best of it and held my wife as she broke down or that I suddenly had a great sense of the Lord’s peace and a light from heaven broke through to shine around my head. But I didn’t. I cried out...
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
There would be many times after that I would feel alone, but this was the first time I can remember feeling forsaken. I know it doesn’t compare to the suffering of Jesus, but in the midst of that physical and emotional pain as I held my wife’s hand and watched our dreams die, I had an inkling of what it feels like to cry out,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?...With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"
I felt forsaken in the ER that day, but I wasn’t alone. The man, Jesus, who was forsaken and knew what it felt like stood by me. He was there with me as I cried. So now I look at him and with the centurion can say, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”