I haven’t been writing as much because I don’t have big enough chunks of time to write coherent thoughts. So proceed at your own risk! Ha. No, really, everything should be just as coherent as before, except that you may find it stilted or abbreviated, as they are more pieces of thoughts instead of the whole thought. Hopefully the posts will kind of progress and together make up a full thought, but I’m not going to get so formal as part 1, part 2, etc.
Sometimes, when you’re young, you think thoughts so scandalous you dare not tell anyone you thought them. For instance, when I was young (less than a teenager, and older than five, and after that it’s anyone’s guess), I remember frankly not getting why it was such a big deal was made out of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. People—that is, radio, books, etc–went into such sob stories about Jesus being nailed—nailed! can you believe the horror of it all?–to the cross, with thorns—such wickedly sharp thorns!–pressed into his brow.
And they would go on and on about it all, trying to get you worked up. Imagine the blood! Imagine the pain! Imagine the agony!
So what was wrong with me, in my coldbloodedness, that I just couldn’t get it? Well, for one thing, I hadn’t forgotten that Jesus was crucified between two other men. He was neither the first nor the last person to be crucified. It sucks, but it happens. It’s not like He was the only person in all humanity who was ever crucified. Secondly, Jesus knew, right? He knew that He had to die, AND He knew He was going to be raised back to life. Not only that, He knew He would be making the way for countless others.
I just couldn’t get it. Temporary suffering + guaranteed happy ending = greatest suffering ever known? It didn’t compute. Everybody dies eventually, so He wasn’t special in that. Lots of people die horrible deaths, and the more you know about horrible deaths, the more you realize what options for horrible there are. Nobody else got promised life in three days, plus you rescue a huge amount of other people with you. Sure, it was unpleasant, but so is changing the garbage. Some things you just have put up with the nastiness and do, right?
But this all seemed horribly sacrilegious, perhaps even profane and wicked, so I never dared to admit to anyone that I thought this. Sometimes I had to wonder which was worse—thinking such thoughts about “The Crucifixion,” or the times when I pondered if hell really was all that awful.
I don’t mean that rebelliously. It’s not like I wanted to go to hell. It’s not that I was defiant of hell. But it’s a firey lake, right? Plenty of people have burned to death. Except you can’t die in hell, so it can’t be as bad as burning to death, right? I mean, yeah, it hurts, but how bad can it be?
I never dared to tell anyone that, either. How wicked are you if you don’t live in terror of hell? You’re not suppose to rationalize it; it’s the most horrible thing in existence. Everyone says so. So something has got to be seriously wrong with you if you entertain thoughts that a lake of fire ought to be bearable.
In retrospect, I think that my young mind was simply grasping, without the hifalutin’ words of educated people, the difference between body and soul.
Years later, though still young (perhaps pre teen or early teen years, I think, but can’t remember), I finally got it. Perhaps my Dad would gnash his teeth that it took me so long, when he had tried so hard to explain it. Perhaps his explaining it through the years had laid the groundwork for me to finally grasp it. But at the the time it seemed to be solely my own private revelation.
I was reading an account of the crucifixion. The beat Him. They pressed the crown of thorns on Him. They made Him carry His cross. They stripped Him naked. They nailed Him to the cross, and I know how they did it, too. I know where the nails went, and it isn’t where they usually draw them. It had been explained to me before how He would suffocate.
And then Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And suddenly it was blindingly, suffocatingly, unquestionably obvious.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
I’d heard it a few times before, when Dad read aloud. But on the radio, they always just talk about the blood. About the horror of dying by crucifixion.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
It wasn’t the physical pain at all. The horror of being nailed to a tree was becoming accursed of God—His God, His Father, the One He loved.
The horror was the wrath of God.
And it all made sense, not just the crucifixion, but hell, too. We make tell ourselves we can bear the fleshly pain, but we know we cannot bear the torment of our souls.
There are good things and bad things on this earth, but they are all just echoes. The good things are echoes of being with God forever, for truly every good thing is a gift from Him. How much fuller the goodness when it is no longer an echo, but truly God-With-Us? And the bad things are all an echo of hell, of the complete lack of fellowship with God, of an existence totally set apart from Him. There might be flames, too, but the real agony, the real suffering is the complete separation from Him who is the fullness of every good thing.
I have never heard it phrased exactly so by anyone else before, but I find it in my heart as a complete unshakable. It colors all my thoughts, and stays with me always.