Love Looks Different

A few years ago I was out and about shopping with my mom and sister when I came across a wooden sign – you know the ones that usually say something humorous or some sort of mantra/inspirational message. I often find these signs fun to read and laugh at it, but I’ve never felt moved to buy one.  

But this sign stopped me in my tracks. It read, “The man on the middle cross told me I can come.” It pierced my soul and I began crying right there in the middle of the store. There was something about this paraphrasing of Jesus’ interaction with the thief that made the crucifixion story come alive for me in a different way. So, of course, I bought the sign.  

Those words still sit with me in a profound way and I think it’s because it expands my understanding of what Jesus is doing on the cross. Yes, He is sacrificing himself for our sin, for us to know the deep love of God and the redemption that comes with it.  

There is more going on here though.  

In this moment, Jesus who is in the midst of great suffering and grief, is ministering to those around him.  

He is literally offering the thief the Kingdom of GodAnd it doesn’t stop there.  

We see his love for his mother when he addresses John asking him to take care of Mary.  

We see Jesus crying out to God to forgive the acts of those who have put him on the cross, “because they know not what they do”. 

Jesus is showing love in ways beyond his sacrifice on the cross. So what is happening on Good Friday is multi-faceted. In other words, there isn’t just one way that Jesus shows love on this day. Love looks different for each person around Him and it’s all tangled up in grief and sorrow.  

I find such comfort in this truth especially this Good Friday at a time in our common life as a church when love just looks different from what we are used to.  

It’s so counterintuitive.  

This incarnation, fleshy faith of ours has been tested. Our actual bodies are in jeopardy of being broken. Our ability to commune with one another is not an option. What are we to do when the very body of Christ we’ve grown accustomed to seems to be denied to us? 

Hard for me to accept that the best way for me to love you is to not be present with you in worship. As a hugger, it’s really difficult 

Here’s where I find comfort in on this day - Jesus is loving people from a distance. 

He’s in many ways helpless. He’s cut off from the ones he loves 

Yet, he is very much present even at a cross length apart from those around him. 

The love of God isn’t one dimensional – it can and does vary at different points throughout life. Holy Week isn’t one dimensional either.  

All of this just feels so different, but God is here.  

We stay present with our neighbor six feet apart and continue to offer Kingdom.  

We look after our mothers and our family from afarEven though we may feel helpless,  we do what we can to make sure they are cared for. 

And we surrender to the pain and the loneliness that this time has been because that’s part of our incarnational story too.  

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

We’ve been suffering. We’ve also been Kingdom.  

That’s the heart of our story - even in suffering, kingdom is always present. The two are so interconnected that it almost feels mutualWe are capable of living in paradox because it’s all part of the order of things. 

The sun sets and it rises.  

Rain and sun are both needed for things to grow. 

We die in order to live.  

Good Friday must precede Easter Sunday.  

The very name for today is in itself a paradox.  How can this day be good?  

I’m a big fan of the show, This Is Us. Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it.  

The show follows a family who is pregnant with triplets and loses one of the babies. In the very first episode of the show we see the family choose to adopt a baby that was brought into the hospital that same day who had been abandoned at a fire station. Their doctor offers them the advice, “There is no lemon so sour that it can’t make something resembling lemonade.” and it solidifies their decision to adopt the little boy left at the hospital.  

A year later the mother and father realize that they have worked so hard toward making this lemonade in adopting the other child and raising the two children that survived that they have forgotten to mourn the loss of their child. So, they go back and visit the doctor for some more sage advice.  

He tells them this, “The whole human experience can be wrapped up in what we see in hospitals  lives begin and end all in the same day. I think the trick is not trying to keep the joys and the tragedies apart. You gotta let them cozy up to one another. You see, life does have a way of shaking out to be more beautiful than tragic.  

Good Friday is the day when we are asked to lean into the tension of the joy and tragedy cozying up to one another. It all comes to a head on this day and we feel raw, grief-stricken and sorrowful. 

At the same time because of the lens our faith gives us, we can feel hope, comfort and peace. 

Author and activist, Glennon Doyle, has a word to describe these kinds of days and moments in our lives – brutiful 

It’s when things are completely brutal and so beautiful all at the same time.  

This time of quarantine and social distancing has been brutiful 

This day in our Christian life is brutiful 

Thanks be to God for meeting us in the brutiful moments and allowing us to experience deep pain alongside deep peace. 

Thanks be to God that this life does have a way of shaking out to be more beautiful than tragic.  

Thanks be to God that we can call this Friday, good.