Saturday, July 24, 2010

By The Hand

I am going to be crucified tomorrow. There will be no miracles this time, it is finished and I am going home, and all His promises will be fulfilled to me. I think I will ask to be crucified upside down – an unusual request, I know, but soldiers like novelty so I think they will grant my request. Who am I to have the privilege of dying as He died?

Tonight I will keep vigil with my memories, and all my memories that matter are of Him. Once there was pain in those memories – the pain of longing and the pain of shame – but now there is only peace, all my shame is washed away and I am cradled in His love. This time tomorrow, on the other side of death, I will be with him inseparably.

Now the memories jostle together, and I am content. Once it would have mattered to me to get them back into sequence, to try and arrange them with meaning and order, but why should that matter now? Soon there will be no more darkness or confusion, only love, and love will make all meanings plain. So I journey through them, smelling again the freshly caught fish, feeling the prickle of the sun on my back, and hearing the slap of the little waves. That was the day He came to us, and asked us to leave our nets and follow Him. “I will make you fishers of men,” He said. I had no idea what He meant, I only know that when He said them, it suddenly seemed the most important thing in the world. I knew that I would rather be about His business (whatever it was) than my own. I followed Him and those were my first steps towards Him.

The problem was, of course, that, while I wanted to walk with Him, I wanted to choose my own steps and my own pace. One minute I would be walking on the water (without stopping to think how impossible that is), the next minute I would be looking at the waves, and down I’d go. It is very hard for a man to keep pace with God, but His love kept stretching my legs. Sometimes I understood, like the day when so many departed from Him after He spoke about being the Bread of Life, and He turned to us and asked if we would leave too. “Where would we go?” I replied, always the one to jump in first when wiser men would stop and think, “You are the one who has the words of eternal life!” Other times I missed it completely, like the day I tried to dissuade Him from the cross. How little I understood!

I got so much wrong. Not just once (once would have been more understandable), but three times I denied Him to the onlookers at His trial. If He was walking towards a cross, I certainly didn’t want to go there! I ran away instead, and even now I wince at the memory. I saw the empty tomb, and I still didn’t understand what was happening. I was so slow to believe. And even after He had defeated death, I still imagined I knew more about fishing than He did.

All my life has been a walking lesson. I had always been so eager to choose my own path. Even that morning on the shore, so bright with His tender forgiveness that my eyes still mist when I try to see it, He told me that the day would come when I would stretch out my hands and be led where I do not want to go. And inwardly I recoiled, as if it were a smudge of dark cloud on the furthest horizon.

And now, when that time has come, it is like nothing I imagined. They have chained me and taken me to prison, tomorrow they will lead me to a cross, and the burly soldiers will march around me, for fear I should run away. How far do they think an old man could run? But none of it matters. They can lead me where they like. It is another hand I am holding fast to, and He is leading me in His own steps. And I am so glad – for the soldiers and the pain and the weariness of life will all fade from me in just a little while more, but He will still be holding me, and He will hold me fast for all eternity and never let me go.

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