It was over two years ago. Most remember the situation. It was on the first day of Spring Celebration, March 21st, 2012. Jane was suddenly very sick. Within 10 days she would be paralyzed head to toe, on a ventilator. She could not communicate, could not blink an eye and every system in her body was shut down with only artificial means to function. Physically, she was in a very, very bad condition. And, while we have said lots of things about that during and after her experience with GBS, we always had difficulty trying to express ourselves completely about what our Christian life was like at that exact time.
I was actually listening to a teaching about what happened to Jesus on the cross and some of the words expressed by the teacher triggered, ‘Yes! That’s how it was, that’s exactly how it was!’ The illustration used was how Jesus, by hanging and dying on the cross, symbolically, walked up to the edge of the darkness, looked over the edge and jumped! Free fell into the darkness; could not see the bottom of the pit kind of that darkness. He jumped into it! What happened in that free fall? When Jesus lay down his life he was human, looking at death and the darkness of that death with Faith and Hope, but still seeing it for all of its fear and darkness, an Adam kind of fear. The obvious answer to my question is he met the Father there. We know from Psalm 22 exactly what happened to Jesus, the exact description of the cross of Christ is expressed by David’s psalm. It is too long to repeat here but the rejection, the thoughts and the pain are clearly expressed in Psalm 22 in explicit detail. It, and its continuation in the 23rd Psalm, is exactly what Jesus experienced.
In actuality, Jesus jumped off into that darkness of death and was embraced by the reassuring arms of his Father. Any fear, doubt or angst was just an illusion, an illusion dispelled by that embrace. That’s the kind of words I was looking for about Jane’s and my experience two years ago. When we were free falling into what could have been fear, doubt and darkness, the Father was there. Certainty is a good descriptive word to use, certain that we were in the embrace of the Father and we were present with Him in some real and tangible way. That darkness was not darkness. Any fears at the beginning of the experience were illusions. At the temptations of Jesus he was offered illusions. The One who holds all things together (He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17) was rejected and killed by the very Creation that he created. He was called names, accused of being demon possessed, alienated, betrayed by his brethren, denied by friends, and mocked, beaten and shamed. At his crucifixion, the illusion was that it was all over. His following had dwindled. Jesus was killed with only a few women and one apostle present. The illusion was that the movement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was dying as he was dying. But all that was an illusion, not real, not what was really going on. Actually, the one that thought he had defeated God was actually being defeated.
In Christ, what goes on in our lives in moments of great fear is illusion as well. He does not leave us alone. He is present in our free falls. Many times we have to lean into the darkness to find the hand that is present there. I’m not talking about being happy, content or embracing our hurt, sickness or pain; I am talking about leaning into those experiences with a Faith and Expectation of Him being in that moment with us. That free fall was what I could not articulate about Jane’s experience. Once in it, we leaned further into the things that we could not see to find His hand in the middle of it. The Holy Spirit is there to teach us who we are at those times so that we can find His presence no matter what we are going through. I heard a teacher explain one time that Jesus has been tempted and pressured in every way we are. And, because of all he suffered on earth, when we cry, He tastes the salt. In Chicago we got to experience and see the Father just as Jesus sees Him: compassionate, caring, embracing, always present, and we jumped off into the middle of it.
Let me end with this side note. We are going to experience the sufferings of Christ in this world. Those sufferings are not about being sick, He never was. It does not mean we will suffer wrath at the hand of God; He is love, and has no shadow or turning in Him! He is the same yesterday, today and forever. It does mean, however, we will perhaps suffer the emotions of being alone, we will know the feelings of being rejected, it will sometimes look like we are in hopeless situations, we will be accused of terrible things, sometimes unjustly, sometimes by family and friends, we will be bullied, called all kinds of names and be rejected because of our Hope and Peace we have found in Christ. Those are the sufferings of Christ. The broken-heartedness of that will hurt and be painful, but if we believe the Father loves us, cares about us and won’t give up on us, if we believe that, it will trump those terrible experiences and we can experience Peace in the middle of the storms of this life.
In 2012, we literally made a decision to believe in the Father’s Love no matter the darkness. Our war was a war he had already won. Our relationship was one already prepared for us by the death and resurrection of Christ. I remember sitting in a very small waiting room just down the hall from Jane while the nurses did some routine things to her that I just preferred not to watch. You know- 14 blood draws a day, needle things and other terrible procedures. It was about 6:00 a.m. as our days began about that time every morning. Jane required that the room stay so cold and I found this little room with just one single little window of sunlight to sit in, get warm by. That morning it became ‘perfectly’ clear to me that Jane was His child, was someone He loved more than even a husband could, and that she was His possession, was in His hands and we both were going to be in partnership with the Creator of the Universe. That morning I leaped….guess what I found!
Charlie Peacock has a lyric that runs: ‘you can only possess what you experience; truth to be understood must be lived.’ In this life we will all get chances to have to use what we believe. What are we to do with our Faith in those moments?