I’m one of those people who believes it’s important to let Lent be Lent and not rush through to Easter Sunday. If we skip the sorrow we cheat ourselves of the way grief carves holes in the soul to hold the joy of resurrection when it comes, and if we bypass the sufferings we also pass by the chance to grow into the love glimpsed there. But this year I can’t quite stay in the sufferings. I keep returning to them to take a long hard look. But the gold and crimson glory peeks through the darkness, and when the joy is given, one can but receive.
This time, joy floods in as He again turns the tables on me and flips my world up side down, taking words often on my lips in recent months and showing me that, long before, they were on his own. “I am no longer my own, but yours.”
The offering, familiar in my own mouth, startles me coming from His. Can He really be saying it, and with such joy? I wonder as I watch him crying out and sweating blood, overwhelmed with the horror of what lies ahead. Is self-giving – and the joy hidden within it – really so. . . mutual?
The joy I feel in those moments of surrender when I know myself truly His, when my heart is open and my hands not clinging. . . can that joy at being His be anything but a reflection of His own joyful, self-giving life in me? It certainly isn’t a reflection of my distorted human nature which lives all turned in on itself. And the joy that was set before Him for which he endured the cross (Heb 12:2) was it not the joy of union with the bride for whom he, in astonishing love, “gave himself up. . . to make her holy. . . and to present her to himself as a radiant church. . .” (Eph 5:25-27)? Why else would He let us overhear His longing for us than that He wanted us to live in the delight of this truth? “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am. . .” (John 17:24)?
He quiets my questions, speaks wonder again and again, leading me into truth.
“I am no longer my own, but yours.” He spoke the sacrifice first to His Father, framed in the similar words, “not my will but yours.” Always one with the Father, and in that sense always His, He gave Himself to His Father again when He laid down His right to self-determination, a right given to Him by His Father (John 10:18). But in this complete surrender of His will to His Father’s, He spoke the words to us too, “I am no longer my own, but yours.”
Forever He lays down independence, binding himself to us as He calls us to bind ourselves to Him. Committing for all time to live in us and for us and through us.
“Remain in me and I will remain in you. . . . Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.” (John 15:4-5)
“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
He lays down, too, the exclusiveness of His relationship with His Father, welcoming us into the inner circle of knowing and being known.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. . . . I have told you everything the Father told me.” (John 15:9, 15)
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are – I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one. Then the world will know that you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:22-23)” (How He Really Loves)
Do you hear the miracle? He gives himself not just for us, but to us. This is no arm’s length offering, no mere legal transaction acquitting us of damage done. This is love. Longing. Commitment not merely “’til death do us part” but for all of eternity, for this is love determined enough to travel, alone, into the heart of enemy territory, conquering, through self-surrender, the one threatening his beloved, and returning to carry her safely through to their forever home. To carry her – no, not just in his arms, but, mysteriously, in himself, she in him and he in her, her life hidden in his, for this is the only safe way through. And this is the closeness he longs to share with her. (John 17:20-26; Col 3:3)
I see Him standing with me as I wait, I prepared to face my own punishment that I know I deserve many times over. He puts His hand under my chin as I stand, eyes on the ground, lifts my face to look into His, so tender. “Child, you are not strong enough. The punishment will take you away from me forever. I am not willing for that. I love you and want you with me always. Let me take the blows.”
How can I resist the love in those eyes? It makes me love Him back, long, too, to stay always in His embrace. And I know He is right. As much as I want to be able to bear my own blame, it would destroy me. If I want to be His, I must let Him kneel at the scourging post, hands tied above His head, let Him take every last stroke of that fiercely studded whip that should have been mine, and continue, body already broken, down the road to the cross, that final doorway into the heart of enemy territory. If I want to be His, I must receive the gift of Himself.
It is sheer grace to be enabled to speak the words to Him, “I am no longer my own, but yours.” But to hear him speak them to me? This heals my heart in a way that nothing else can, nothing but Him choosing to give Himself not just for me but to me, unreservedly and with great joy.
He brings me full circle from wondering whether it can possibly be true that he speaks the words to me to wondering how I could have thought otherwise. “What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor 4:7) I give only what I have first been given. My self is a gift. The grace to trust and the breath to whisper “I am yours” are gifts. His giving of Himself to me, His own life living in me, this alone enables me to give myself to Him.
“I am no longer my own, but yours.”
What wonder, that you speak these words to me
You. . . mine.
I kneel in awe.
And offer myself again to you.