The memory of staring at the ceiling in bed that night, the blankets tucked tightly up to my chin, is as fresh as if it was yesterday. I was afraid to close my eyes. Because when I did, I saw Him.
Jesus, bruised and bloody, hanging on a cross.
I wanted to forget. To scrub what I had seen clean from my mind.
Why didn't I look away? I thought. I should've looked away.
For that night, the sweet Jesus I sang about, the One who was born in a stable and did miracles and was always smiling in pictures I saw of Him, wasn't the same. He was replaced with an in-the-flesh image that made me so sad and nervous and uncomfortable. My parents were quick to comfort and reassure me and stayed with me while I fell asleep.
Of course, growing up, I had always known from reading God's Word and hearing Bible lessons that Jesus died for the sins of the world, but seeing it depicted right before my eyes tore me up inside. I hated that the crowds shouted for Him to die. I was so angry that those soldiers beat Jesus, mocked Him, and whipped Him before nailing His hands and feet to a splintered cross.
I wanted to scream at them to stop.
But deep down I knew, even as a child, what troubled me the most about seeing Jesus in that state.
I put Him there.
I did that.
My sins deserve death and punishment. For eternity.
And He willingly stood in my place. My Jesus, my Rescuer. Not just for a horrible, humiliating, excruciating physical death, but He also took on God's wrath and punishment and drank from the cup that had my name engraved on it.
Ash Wednesday is today and we begin the season of Lent, a journey with Jesus to His death. Each Wednesday (and all the days in between) for the next six weeks, I will read His story and sit in church and feel a bit like that young girl who didn't want to see her Jesus suffer. I will squirm in my seat when the severity of sins is spoken of. I will feel their weight and see their consequence. Tears will sting my eyes because I know what could have, should have, would have been without Him.
It should've been me.
Journeying with Jesus to the cross is not a pretty sight. It's uncomfortable. It's necessary. It's heartbreaking. It's beautiful.
Don't turn away.
Don't let the weight of your sins drag you away from Hope, from Comfort. Don't brush off or ignore His sacrifice for you.
Set your eyes on the One who lived a perfect life and then redeemed you with his blood. Feel the soothing comfort of His Word poured out into your wounded heart. Be strengthened by it. Keep your thoughts on the One who loved you enough to walk through the deepest pit of agony so you could have heaven. Fix your heart on the One who battled death and sin and the devil and won. The One who made sure that your name is written on the palm of the Father's hand.
And after the suffering, there is joy! The greatest, most satisfying Joy of all. The most beautiful sight for sore eyes. Easter.
Walk with Him, clinging to Him every step of the way. It is in this journey that we see the height and depth of His love.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5