One on the right and the other on the left

I’m not entirely sure why, but I haven’t been thinking or acting like myself lately.

I could list a few things that have happened to make me less happy about my circumstances, but I generally am a plow-through-it type of girl. I recognize the value in change as well as the difficulty of transitioning. I get it. I had lunch with a friend who is a few years older so that I could explain to her what’s going on with me and we could bounce around possibilities together of why I feel so out of sorts.

Whether it’s raging hormones or exhaustion or general discontentment, I don’t know. I just know I feel caged and irritable.

And this is how I spent Lent this year. Totally not what I wanted to happen. I love the spiritual disciplines and theological reflection. I adore spending intimate time with God and pouring out my heart and touching the hope I find in God’s presence. But I have spent more time searching for a way out of my predicament than I have in seeking God.

As I have tried to enjoy a day off from my full-time job today preparing for tonight’s worship and attempting again to be intentional in my devotions, I can’t shake my feelings of irritation.

I have prayerfully projected images of my feelings into things like being in prison. In those prayers, my thoughts flow like movies. I sit in a cell, but Jesus reminds me that, long ago, the door was unlocked. I am free. But I haven’t left yet, because

I’m afraid.

I sit in this spot as if I’m locked up because, at least here things are predictable. I know what’s coming in, what has to go out, and when all those things have to happen.

Perhaps you know how this feels. Perhaps you’re in the next cell.

Jesus remember meToday, my reading has been, predictably, Luke’s story of the crucifixion of Christ.  In chapter 23, Luke relays the story of Jesus going to Calvary along with two criminals who were sentenced to be hung with him – one on the right and the other on the left. For those who know the story, we know one as the blaspheming criminal and the other as the penitent one.

As they were hanging there – the three of them – and soldiers and onlookers hurled insults and mocked Jesus, one of Jesus’ neighbors on the crosses yelled over to him, “If you are the Christ, save yourself, and us!”

And, sitting here in my little cell, a prisoner of another sort, I understand why he said that. Here we are, right beside Jesus Christ. He has proved himself. Everybody knows what Jesus can do. Why are we all still hanging here in this predicament? Why aren’t you saving yourself? If you refuse to save yourself, then does that mean you won’t do anything to save me either?  The guy was miserable and there was Jesus, the one who could turn things around, right beside him.

When we are suffering, or otherwise struggling with something, we feel desperate for a Savior. We have our own pictures of what that salvation should look like. As it turns out, our ideas of salvation pale in comparison to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We want our Savior to get off the cross and come take us down off ours, too.

We don’t want our Savior to die right beside us.

In our human experience, death is the end. At least, it is the end of life as we know it.  But our Savior knows better. Jesus knew the glory that was set before him, even while he endured suffering. He knew. Even when he was dying. It wasn’t too late. His death didn’t mark the end of living. It was the end of dying.

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” said the other criminal after he reprimanded the guy who just wanted to get off that blasted cross.

Yes, Lord. Remember me.