I have a three year old niece. She’s is the bubbly embodiment of loveliness. And it’s not just her sweet face. Her heart is open and free in a way that only a child untouched by rejection and hurt can live. She isn’t gaurded in expressing her joy of people. She doesn’t supress her dissapproval in order to fall into line with expectations. She is her true self. Everyday, she lives in fullness of who she is, unaware that one day, her heart will be dimissed. But what I love most of all is how sensitive she is to the reality of Jesus. As much as she has learned to repeat the truths of who He is, “‘Why did Jesus die, Emily?’ ‘Because He loves you!’ And what does Jesus say when He sees you?’ “I love my Emmy!’” (This last phrase she giggles through every word) she already has her own budding relationship with Him.
I was three when I asked Jesus into my heart. It’s my very first memory. I was in the kitchen. My mom was sitting at the table reading. I told her I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. We prayed. It was September 10, 1981. (Thanks, Mom, for actually writing the day down). When I was eleven, I observed the mental capsity of my three year old cousin, and in my intellectual superiority, I concuded that there was no way I could have understood sin and forgiveness when I was only three. And since I had mastered it at eleven, I re-prayed just to make sure. How badly I wish I could tell that eleven year old that while Jesus loves giving revelations about Himself, He longs for the open heart of a child that just wants to be His. Seeing Emily’s heart open to Jesus is a sweet reminder that He wanted before I “knew the answers.” Yes, Jesus swooped me up early. His I want that one. She’s mine. came before I could even form a proper prayer. I’ve never known a day when WE weren’t.
Has God ever given you just a glimpse of revelation – just enough to awaken you to the fact that you’ve been blind? Being Holy week, there’s been a lot of talk about the crucifiction of Christ and His resurrection. I was singing about the people crying Hosanna as Jesus entered Jerusalem. I always thought that word was a praise word, like Hallelujah. But it actually means “Save us!” The people were asking to be saved from Roman oppression. Within days, their Hosanna! would turn into a vicious Crucify Him! Their voices join the chorus of people throughout history who shake their fists because Jesus isn’t who they wanted Him to be . And even thought I know Him, I’m no better. I sing alto in that choir. Their disappointment turned to murderous anger. He was mocked as a criminal, brutally beaten, sexually humilated,and gave up His spirit while hanging on slintered wood between two theives. We have the benefit of looking at this on the other side of the empty tomb. We see how the Father orchestrated these events because Jesus was coming to free us, not from political oppression, but from what we derserve. As Brian O put it, Jesus didn’t die to make a point. He didn’t die because He was trying to demonstrate how a philosophy is lived out. And He certainly didn’t die as an unfortunate victum of mob mentallity. He died to take the wrath of God on Himself so we wouldn’t have to bare it. He died to take my place. He was my substitute. It was the only way He could make me His.
This is the great story that I’ve known my whole life. And as I stood in the choir, hand raised, not in a fist, but in praise, God’s revelation beamed into my heart like a thin stream of light, just enough to show me I was in the dark.
I have no idea what it really means that Christ died for me. I understand the words. I can recite the theology behind the need for a substitutionary sacrifice. But the full weight of the fact that Jesus died to win me…ME…escapes me. I am somewhere between the three year old me who desperately wants to love and be loved by Him, and the eleven year old that knows too many answers for her own good.
But I want to know. I want to know beyond a formulaic answer. I want to understand His death as more than an response to a question. I want the glory of His personal love for me to grow from that tiny beam of revelation into a blinding light that changes the way I see everything. God be merciful. I want Emily (and you) to know what it means that He chose her and took God’s wrath so her sweet heart wouldn’t have to carry it.
Show me, Jesus.