Texas, our home for over a decade, grows further and further in our rearview mirror. I recently told a friend that I feel like I’m in “life-rehab.” So much change: neighborhood, schools, church, perspectives, mindsets, habits. Scribbling ideas and verbally painting my emotions have always been ways to release stress. But over the last few months, I feel God’s kept me on the sidelines, just watching. Intentional listening, as God works to transform my heart. Cracking it in places and rebuilding, molding —transforming me. Now am I beginning to write once again. With all the current angst and trepidation around the world, it seems apropos to just go back to basics.
Sixteen months ago, I sat on the edge of her bed and leaned in close. “Glenda, are you scared?” Tears moistened my friend’s eyelids expressing what words couldn’t. Her expression pled for answers to unspoken fears. Longing to know her thoughts, I pressed further.
“I wish I could ask what advice you’d give me, but since I can’t, I have to know, do you have any regrets?” Tears soaked her tissue-soft cheeks as she gazed into my eyes. Unable to vocalize words, a longing look begged for interpretation. “I see you,” I whispered.
What could I say?
Then a picture materialized in my mind. “Hey, can I tell you something?” A weak squeak escaped her lips. I shifted slightly so she could see my face better. “I’m sure you’ve been to church and heard about Jesus dying on the cross and all that, but have you ever heard why He died?” I paused as though waiting for her to answer. Then continued.
“Everyone makes mistakes, whether intentional or not. When Jesus died, He took every mistake we’ve ever made, every bad choice, all our regrets… He took every last one with Him to the grave. Guilt, shame, regret, fear followed Him to the tomb, where He was buried for three days. On day three, the stone that secured all that death swallowed was divinely rolled away. And with the power of Adonai, God the Father, Jesus stepped out from that tomb.
The living don’t belong in the grave with the dead, but our mistakes and poor choices, our regrets, fear, isolation –all that separates us from God– stayed in that tomb. All of it belongs and remains in the grave. BUT Jesus is alive!”
I looked at my friend to see if she was tracking. Fresh tears escaped. If she could have leaned forward as though to say, “Keep going. I’m listening,” I think she would have. I gently took her frail hand in mine and continued.
“The reason Jesus Christ died was to give us a chance to be with Him forever. We can either stay in the crypt along with fear and regret, or we can walk out of death into His arms. Into freedom. Into life. There’s freedom in His forgiveness. Glenda, are you in the grave? Or are you free in His arms?”
Her body convulsed with sobs, and I shifted again to reassure her by placing my cheek on her forehead. “Hey, you don’t need to say words out loud. The Holy Spirit knows your heart and mind. Just tell Him you want to abandon all your ‘stuff’ in that place of death. Tell Him you want freedom through His forgiveness. Do you mind if I pray with you?” Her cries subsided as she nodded her consent.
Once I said “amen,” her body relaxed and she smiled at me. Peace. Such soothing peace spread over her face and settled her in that moment. I have to believe that day, she walked away from all that held her in death. A couple weeks later, she walked from this life into total freedom, into the arms of Christ.
During these last few months of the Covid19 pandemic, fear, anxiety, and isolation have not been strangers for so many. For those of us who know Jesus Christ, are we walking in freedom or living with fear in the grave?
And for those who may not know Jesus Christ, I’ll tell you the same thing I told Glenda: He offers release from sin and fear as He offers freedom through our repentance and His forgiveness. He offers liberation from isolation and death as He offers a relationship with Him through acceptance of His mercy and grace.
And that’s where real living begins.