Freedom at the Cross
Sunday April 15, 2001 was the first church service I ever attended and it just so happened to be an Easter Sunday service! I’ve often said there couldn’t be a better day to be introduced to the church. I sat amongst a joyous crowd that morning as we celebrated Christ’s resurrection. I had no idea what that meant at the time, but that really didn’t matter to me because being there felt good.
As we are approaching Easter once again, I have been reminiscing about how I have changed and come to better understand Holy Week. Year after year my experience has deepened as I have grown in my understanding of scripture and how I relate to it. My journey this year has reached a new and very personal level that has left me feeling full of emotion and in awe of God’s love for me. Read on and I will try to explain it to you…
I am going to be totally honest and say that I am so grateful that my first service was on Easter Sunday and not Good Friday. It has taken me many years to be comfortable being present at a Good Friday service. Truthfully I used to dread going to them, even after I accepted Christ into my life. Hearing the details of His death or watching it played out in a video really made me uncomfortable. Some of you may call me a hypocrite as I identified myself as a Christian yet dreaded attending a Good Friday service. Isn’t Good Friday the basis of Christianity? Of course it is and I felt like a fraud for feeling the way I did. I believed Christ died on that cross as a punishment for all of our sins, yet I couldn’t bear to sit in the comforts of my church pew and witness it.
Today I realize that I was slowly peeling away the shame of my past. Christ had forgiven me but I hadn’t forgiven myself yet. I was still carrying the burden of my own cross. Over the years I had suffered many consequences for my poor choices, but even after receiving His forgiveness I still felt like I deserved to suffer more hardships. I don’t think my past was any worse than most, but for me I felt very tarnished.
Watching the punishment Christ received made me squirm because I really felt that I deserved that punishment! Although He wiped my slate clean the day I admitted to Him that I was flawed, I still couldn’t understand why and how someone could fully love and accept me, blemishes and all. There must have been a catch to all of this. The burden I carried because of my past couldn’t just disappear because Christ had forgiven me. It just didn’t make sense to me.
I realize now that Jesus sought me my whole life. Even though I didn’t know who God was at the time, I believe He was present throughout my childhood. I believe He held an umbrella of protection over me as I navigated my way through our complicated world. As I grew older I know I disappointed Him and no doubt angered Him with some of my choices. I’m sure He provided many opportunities for me to get to know Him better along the way, but the chaos I had created in my life prevented me from seeing them.
Despite my behaviour He continued to love me. The day I finally felt His presence was a miracle! I will say that one more time, it was a miracle! He had every right to be more disappointed and angered than He had ever been, but He still reached down one more time and said, “Come to me Allison, I love you.” He didn’t try to shame me or scorn me, instead He opened His arms and forgave me.
One of my favourite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
These words have provided me so much comfort. It’s not only knowing that Christ wiped my sins clean, but it’s also recognizing that I am a new creation and my past is gone! All the poor choices that I had made that left me feeling so unclean had been forgotten. I have hung onto this verse for a long time but this year it has a renewed meaning for me.
Jesus suffered a horrific death on the cross and part of what brought him there was my sin. He knew back then that I would fumble yet He was still prepared to pay the price for my freedom. The consequences for my past didn’t magically disappear, Christ carried them on a His shoulders. This week as I have been thinking about His journey to the cross I can clearly see the load He carried for me. I can see my past attached to that cross!
I can’t tell you how this shift happened for me. I believe the Holy Spirit reveals new understandings for each of us in His time. I’ve made a different connection this year though and it has provided me with even more freedom! This year as I watch and hear details of His cruxifixction, instead of turning my head away while trying to deny what really happened, I am acknowledging the heavy price He paid for me. The pain He suffered was the pain I’ve been afraid I might have to suffer. By clearly seeing my sins on His shoulders I can release those fears! I’m also reminded that as I lay my present sins at His feet, those too are on that cross. He not only died for my past but also for my shortcomings that I confess to him today and tomorrow.
It’s a whole new perspective for me as we approach Good Friday. The love He has for us is amazing. He takes away our shame. I pray that regardless of where you are in your life that you understand that Jesus loves you. Again and again, He is waiting with open arms ready to carry all of our burdens to the cross. We just need to rest in His arms, trust that we are forgiven and share our burdens with Him.
May you feel the hope of new beginnings and rest in His love and acceptance this Easter weekend.