Keep Reading…

There are times when you find yourself at the bloody and painful part of the gospel story. Darkness has covered the earth. Everything has been shaken. Your Savior has breathed His last. You don’t realize the temple veil has been torn in two. It starts to rain. You don’t understand the prophecies or the promises. You have no recollection that He told you He would rebuild the temple in just 3 days, and even if you did, 3 days is too long to wait.

We are not people who want to sit between Friday and Sunday. We do everything in our power to run, numb, or subdue. And yet, there were a few who did not. A few who had the courage, the compassion and the tenderness to press in.

In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, we read that Lucy and Susan followed Aslan to the Stone Table. At one point during their walk, it says that Aslan was so far bent over from grief that his nose rubbed the ground. He begged Lucy and Susan to bury their hands in his mane to comfort him. When he arrived at the Stone Table, he told them to leave, but they refused. After he died there, Lucy and Susan stayed to tend to his body. It was there that they saw him roar back to life. And it was then that he invited them to ride on his back as he went back to seek his revenge of the White Witch.

On that glorious resurrection Sunday, Mary ran to the tomb. She had no idea that it would be empty. She couldn’t have possibly known what the prophecies meant at the time. Perhaps Mary simply wanted to lay next to his dead body because it was better than being holed up in fear with the disciples. And Mary was the first to see the resurrected Lord. It says that she was weeping at the tomb when Jesus appeared and when He called her by name, her eyes were opened and she held onto Him and wouldn’t let Him go. Mary was honored because she pressed into her grief. She didn’t stand in her pain and make accusations. She didn’t stop believing in His goodness. She embraced her pain and was given the gift of seeing the dead raised to life.

When I was in 4th grade, I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time. I had no idea it was a story about the gospel of Jesus. When Aslan died, I threw the book down and could not stop sobbing. I ran into my mom’s room and buried myself into her. I said, “I can’t read this book anymore. I can’t finish it if Aslan isn’t alive.” My mom looked at me with this twinkle in her eye and said, “Emily, oh, Emily. You have to keep reading. Please, keep reading.”

It’s been His answer for everything in this season.

“Can this be true?”

Keep reading.

“Are you really in this?”

Keep reading.

“I can’t bear where this story is going.”

Keep reading.

For those of us who are in the part of the gospel between Friday and Sunday, I want to encourage you to keep reading. Take a moment to sit in the grief of the death of something or someone you love, but then keep reading. Don’t withdraw or shrink back in fear. Feel the warmth of His mane and trust that you actually bring comfort to Him when you weep. Let the grief take you further in. Because the deeper magic from before the dawn of time is just now starting to stir.

Can you feel it?

Aslan is on the move.

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Lake Naivasha, Kenya

 

The Woman Who Carried Our King

Your entire being must have quaked when that angel showed up in brilliant glory.  You couldn’t have been more than a teenager; a young, plain Jewish girl.  Betrothed to a man who knew you not.  And when Gabriel appeared and knocked you to your knees, it says you were perplexed by his strange salutation.  He called you favored one, but your favor stretched beyond that moment.  You were born with it.

You recognized his words, the ancient ones, written on tablets from long ago, written on doorframes and on your heart.  The King was coming.  You knew He would.  And yet you had no idea that He would be coming through you.

You ran to Elizabeth’s house, confident that she would understand the miracle, because she was on the journey, too.  Her formerly barren body was bursting with new life and you must have known that she would be expecting you.  And when you came reeling through the door, the little babe inside of her leapt because he recognized your voice.  The voice of the woman carrying our King.

And as women do, I’m sure you dissolved into tears and held each other tightly.  And stared incredulously at each other’s swollen breasts and flat bellies, wondering what toll this would take on your youthful frames, and how you would ever make it through the next nine months.

It says that you stayed there for three of those nine, without your mother.  Without the man who was planning to divorce you silently.  You needed to be next to someone who was full of belief.  You needed another woman, a sister.  You needed her strength to pull you through, to remind you of the words written long ago.  Someone who would help you remember, when the progesterone and estrogen were at immeasurable heights, that you were favored among women.  Someone who would lie beside you in bed and whisper the prophecies of old when you were too tired to repeat them yourself.  Someone who would sing over you, “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name,” over and over, while holding your hair as you threw up in a bucket.

What happened when you left there?  When your clothes were getting too tight and people were starting to whisper?  When you had to walk around in the city with a protruding belly and no man beside you?

Perhaps you stayed up late into the night, feeling tiny hands and feet and hiccups on the inside.  Rubbing your belly and struggling to get comfortable on scratchy sheets with swollen feet and heartburn.   All the while knowing that the Messiah was growing within you.  That every nutrient you placed in your body was sustaining Him, that your very blood was carrying all of His unmet needs and that soon His would be shed for yours.

Nine months cannot be long enough to comprehend carrying the Savior of the World.  And yet you tried.  You pieced things together, pondering them and storing them up in your heart.

And then it was time.  And in the midst of this, you had to drag your contracting body onto a donkey and ride miles and miles to a town far away through the cold, dark night.  And when you finally arrived to the City of David, I can only imagine the pain-stricken look on your face as Joseph carried you door to door, trying to find a place to lay your weary self down.  Filled with dreams of hot water and clean sheets and quiet.

But instead, you were led to a barn, where you had to stretch yourself out with the animals.  And with every labored breath, you inhaled the stench of dust and excrement.  And as you twisted and writhed on the hay, you must have been crying out in disbelief that the King of all Kings would be born here.  In the midst of this mess.  In the midst of your mess.  And my mess.  Amongst all things unworthy.

And yet He was.

And still is time and again.

And you had no idea that your anguished cries would be matched by His own someday and that the blood that you spilled for Him would pale in comparison to the blood He would spill for you.