second chance

The Foot of the Cross – The Source of Love

“Come with me” he says. “Come follow me.” “Come deeper with me.” “Trust me.” He tells me this constantly. He comes to me in my moments of despair, in my moments of weakness, and in my moments of great joy and tells me to come with him. To go with him to that place on Calvary where he died, because he has more to show me.

Then he takes me there. I am walking through the desert with him by my side. We walk up the hill of Calvary. At the top of the hill he points to the cross. There he is. He is on the cross. He is suffering. He is in so much pain and so much hurt. He is weak and wounded. The air is filled with a deep somber sense as if the entire world has been paused.

We walk up to the foot of the cross. I am standing right at the foot of the cross. His blood is pouring down on me. I can hear him, hear him struggling for breath, crying out. I see him looking up to heaven, to his father, wishing for relief, wishing all the pain he was experiencing would be taken away and healed. But although he hopes so dearly for the pain to go away, he courageously accepts the knowledge that God’s will and God’s plan is greater than his own human desire to never experience pain. He has perfect trust in God his Father and the plan that God has for him. He embraces his cross with a strength so unknown to this world.

Then He looks at me. He looks right at me. When I dare to look back up, directly into his eyes I feel as though I can see straight into his soul and he into mine. His eyes are full of pain. I can see every part of his body is in intense pain. I have never seen so much pain in my life. But although he is in great pain, there is something else in his eyes that overtakes the pain. There is love. There is love, great love in his eyes. It is a piercing love like I have never experienced before. A love so deep and so pure. It is a love for me. A love for my husband. A love for our children. A love for each and every person who has ever existed and who ever will exist in this world. This love in His eyes is the calm in the storm.

He doesn’t say anything to me while our eyes are locked but it is as if his gaze speaks directly to my soul. I can hear his soul speaking to mine and he says “I love you. You are a daughter of God and you are so deeply loved. You have so much immense worth. I have so much planned for you and it is greater than you could ever imagine. I forgive you for all that you have done and all that you will do. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you. I love you. I love you exactly where you are, who you are, and no matter what you do. I will love you at every moment of every day for eternity. I want you to accept my love, to let me love you. But I want you to choose my love. I freely give my love to you at all times and through all things. I will love you if you accept my love, if you reject it, deny it, run from it, ignore it, or embrace it, because my love for you isn’t based on what you do, it is my conscious choice to love you no matter what. I love you with all that I have. I suffer for you. I rejoice for you and in you. I delight in you.”

When I feel his immense love for me I am paralyzed. I can’t move. I fall down. Fall straight on my knees with my face on the ground and my hands raised to heaven. I am overcome. Overcome with this love that I cannot understand. This love that is greater than any sin or anything in this world. This unconditional love like I have never experienced. This love that he pours down on me overtakes me. It overtakes every part of my being and fills my soul. It fills my soul with everything I could ever want and everything I could ever need. For the first time in my life I feel complete – I feel full – I feel alive – I feel like I am who I am meant to be, who I was made to be. I am so full of His love that all I want to do is give this love to others.

Then Jesus takes me up on the cross with him. He unites my suffering to his on the cross. And while I am up there I see everyone who has ever hurt me. I see them standing at the foot of the cross and I am looking down at them. Sometimes it is many people, sometimes just one person, and sometimes it is myself. Then he says to me “see them as I do. Look at them through my eyes.” He shows me how although I may be hurting, they are hurting too. He shows me how I have played a part in their suffering, pain, joy, and triumphs. It’s so humbling. He opens my eyes to see those in my life in the most incredible ways, to see how he sees them as His children who are so incredible, special, and important to the world in their own individual ways. For each one of us is a part of His body and as a part of His body has an integral role to play in the salvation of this world. But as He lets me see each person through His eyes, He also shows me how broken and hurt each one of them is. He always has me focus on my spouse in a particular way since He especially calls me to love my spouse as He loves.

He reminds me that He loves me for where I am in each moment. He shows me that although I have failed Him and hurt Him, He has never left my side. He gently reminds me that for all the times I have betrayed and hurt Him, He has forgiven me. He loves me in my imperfection and He wants me to love others in that same way. He wants me to meet those in my life where they are, for who they are, and embrace and encourage them to grow into who they were created to be because that is what He does for me. He sees who I should be, who I was created to be, and yet loves me when I fall short.

To help me love those who have hurt me, He fills me with the same love that He has them. He says to me that I am to forgive for any wrong or hurt that I have felt. And while I am up on the cross with him, all I want to do is forgive. All I want to do is pour out my love to them. All I want to do is offer up my suffering, my pain, and my love to God for their healing, their forgiveness, and their peace. All I want is to continue to pour out my love for them with all that I have forever and ever. All I want is to show them, to tell them how much I love them and to pick them up, embrace, and comfort them in their woundedness. All I want is show them how amazing they are, to show them how inspiring they are, to show them how loved they are. All I want is to take away all of their hurt, all of their pain, all of their suffering, all of their loneliness, all of their frustration, all of their confusion, all that is hurting them and all that is holding them back and replace it with love. All I want is for them to know their immense worth in the eyes of God. All I want to do is tell them how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged them. It’s amazing how much we all fall short and wrong those in our lives. While I am up on the cross looking down at them through His eyes, all I have is compassion, forgiveness, and love for them.

And while I am on the cross looking down with the same love for them in my heart that Christ has for me and my suffering united to his for the greater glory of God, He urges me to say these words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

 

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Repair or rebuild

Over time without a lot of regular maintenance bridges will begin to deteriorate. A once strong bridge that could support a lot of weight becomes weak and unstable. At that time a decision has to be made – repair or rebuild the bridge. I think marriage can be the same way. 

When the relationship starts, the bridge is built. There are two people and the bridge that is built is the relationship between them. The relationship starts out strong and each piece of the bridge is carefully put in place. The bridge parts are the moments of connection and trust that the two people share. It is the experiences they have together and the way they do things as a couple. As their commitment to each other grows, the bridge becomes stronger. 

The bridge remains strong for a while. It is important that it does because every day the bridge has to bear the weight of the things that come against the relationship – other people, outside commitments like work, friends, hobbies, money, etc. As long as the bridge, the relationship, stays strong it can continue to connect the two people and hold through any of these stresses put on it. 

Without regular maintenance the bridge will begin to deteriorate and become weak. It can no longer support the weight and stress it used to. This happens when the two people stop putting so much effort into staying connected and caring about each other like they did when they built the relationship in the beginning. Then the pressures and stresses from outside the relationship begin to weigh down too heavy on a relationship that isn’t strong enough to stand against them. 

As the bridge becomes more weak there comes a point where a decision has to be made. The bridge is weak enough that is is unstable and not safe. You can either repair the existing bridge or rebuild a new one to keep the two connected. 

Marriage as a lifelong commitment between two people – for better or for worse – forever and ever times infinity and beyond – has these same two options when the relationship is stressed, worn down, hurt, and damaged. Because the love and relationship is forever, there must always be a bridge connecting the two of you. The two people can either repair what they have or start to build a new, better, stronger bridge/relationship between the two of them, learning from their mistakes from the past to build a stronger bridge this time.

In this type of a lifelong commitment and love for each other it can sometimes be necessary to realize that what you had built before isn’t working anymore and is too worn and hurt. It can be scary to rebuild that bridge between the two of you, to start trying to reconnect again, but sometimes that fresh start at a new relationship with your spouse is needed. Both of you can come to the table with better knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of what failed before and rebuild a new bridge and connection with each other. 

The old way didn’t work between the two of you, but the new way, the new bridge, will be better than the previous one. This is because as we change as people and our circumstances change over time, we have different needs and thoughts. These must be taken into account when repairing or rebuilding your bridge. When the bridge has gone too long without maintenance, rebuilding it may be the best option to ensure those new needs and changes are taken into account when you begin to reconnect. 

Rebuilding doesn’t mean the old bridge and relationship didn’t exist. It doesn’t erase the old way you did things or the hurts or problems from before. Those things are there and they are very real. But rebuilding chooses to use those experiences to start fresh with something new that learns from past mistakes and makes different better decisions from now on. 

Repairing would take the form of addressing all your problems and fixing each one individually – looking at each weak part of the bridge and fixing it. But this rebuilding takes the form of starting from the very beginning – getting to know each other again and connecting with each other. It acknowledges all the wrongs, hurts, and failings of the old bridge, knocks them down, and then uses that knowledge to build a new bridge without those same issues in it. 

Sometimes it is necessary to rebuild your marriage and your connection with your spouse with a fresh start between the two of you.  The rebuilding starts with an attempt at reconnecting with each other like you did when you first met and began building your first bridge.