I walked to a block yesterday where hundreds of crocuses line the sidewalk, not neatly arranged in prepared beds, but irrepressibly pushing up through moss and grass into the light.
As I stood at one end of the stretch, by a grand old tree, it seemed to offer me a picture of life, particularly as we see it through this season of Lent.
The Way passes by the grand old Tree, that steady refuge of stability and protection, and beyond it, other trees line up, each a picture to me of our own smaller crosses we’re asked to carry. Between these trees, and beneath them – Life! And Joy! Little and big gifts of love and delight that offer beauty and hope and the promise that God’s mercies are new every morning and that life doesn’t end with the cross but springs up in flourishing, hopeful newness.
The tree-lined, crocus-strewn path draws me back again to the verse I’ve been reflecting on during this Lenten period about Jesus, who, “for the joy set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)
Sometimes I need to linger with the horror of the cross and feel the weight of it being my sin that Jesus carried there. Sometimes I need to experience Jesus with me in my own moments of suffering. And sometimes, with Jesus, I need to look to the joy beyond, the joy that springs from His sacrifice and sustains and fuels my own opening to his love, my own sharing in his joy as well as in his sacrificial love for the world.
During this Lenten period, I’ve also been reading the beautiful, wise, courageous book, An Impossible Marriage: What Our Mixed Orientation Marriage Has Taught Us About Love and the Gospel, by Laurie Krieg and Matt Krieg. It might seem an odd read for me, a single, straight woman. But I was intrigued. I’m always intrigued to ponder the rich Biblical metaphor of our marriage to Christ, and I wondered what layers this couple—both of them attracted to women—had uncovered about that Biblical image as they’ve lived and prayed, wept and celebrated their particular story together.
I haven’t been disappointed. As one of the reviewers said, “Whether you’re single or married, straight or gay or anything else, there’s something here for you.”
Just one of the gifts for me has been Matt and Laurie’s list of Core Needs that they formed to think and talk more deeply with each other during their journey. We’re all created with needs—good needs—and, in naming these particular needs, Laurie and Matt offer us a framework to think about which of these most easily trip us up when we look primarily to other people rather than first to God to meet them. It’s also a framework of ways to love others well when God wants to love them through our hands and hearts.
And, I’m discovering, it’s a framework through which to look at God’s love and bow in worship at the many nuances of the ways he loves, from his first words of affirmation spoken over us at creation—”It is very good”—to his myriad acts of love along the journey.
Here’s Matt and Laurie’s list of Core Needs:
Affirmed: overwhelmingly approved of
Desired: specially chosen; no pretense necessary
Included: wanted in this group, team, or partnership; feeling that “I belong”
Loved: unconditionally accepted
Nurtured: cared for, held
Purposed: filled with a sense of profoundly mattering
Rested: re-centered and reset in mind, body, spirit; includes having fun
Delighted in: seen as unique and special
Protected: unafraid; trusting everything is under control
Noticed: seen inside and out(p. 92)
While God meets all of these needs as he encounters us in various present-day situations and Biblical images—God as compassionate parent who can’t forget us, wise midwife who encourages and safeguards us during the painful periods of our life—I’m finding all over again that many of these needs are addressed right here at the cross, particularly as I linger with the marriage imagery that surrounds it.
Here, where Jesus steps in to take the punishment for me, I find myself Protected. And Desired, too, as Jesus faces the cross for the joy set before him. Here I find myself Included, wanted enough to be brought right in to a family of others who are also Desired and Protected and Loved, brought right in with Jesus, past the inner curtain that kept me out, right into the inner life of the Trinity.
We live in a world where the way is lined with daily deaths and daily beauty, sometimes so closely entwined that they’re impossible to separate. (Is One laying down his life for another death, or the most brilliant, love-shaped beauty?)
In the age to come, death itself will die. Until then, let’s keep looking to this One who shows us how to live well and die well, disregarding the shame of the process, our eyes fixed on Him who is our joy now as well as our greater joy to come.