. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV)
As the bride enters the room, all rise and turn to her, but her eyes are fixed on her prize, her longed after groom. This last, sacred week of Lent, I remember that I chose to take this journey as a bride, not a penitent. At the start of the day, I felt forced and false. I was not looking forward to recounting the death of my Savior. I wanted to shake this grave feeling, but I needed someone to help me, like Lazarus needed unwrapping after four days in the tomb.
I ran to the Living One, who is no longer in the grave, begging for a week of celebration, rather than despair. I desired more time to linger over our honeymoon journey. I did not want to spend the entire week reeling under false guilt and recounting lost causes in my life.
And then I remembered these words: For the joy set before Him!
The cross was a joy, even though the pain was excruciating. The journey was a delight, in spite of the scourging and being spat upon and the jeering that Jesus endured. And He offered Himself to the cross, to be humiliated before all. He willingly went to that hill, because He knew that the stone would be rolled away, that His sacrifice would make possible a miracle. His love would melt our hearts of stone and bestow on us hearts that rejoice. He believed that mercy is new every morning! He had us in mind as He endured the oppression, and our faces eased His pain. For the joy set before Him!
Today, when I was tempted to give into false Lenten misery, I called my hobo (homeward bound) friend, Carol Ann, the one who invited me to see this journey as a honeymoon with the Beloved. She was feeling the heaviness, too.
But the Beloved had something else in mind for us. He was beckoning us both to experience joy. He invited us to embrace the snow laden, spring day. I packed us some fresh bagels and coffee. We drove past the railroad tracks to an abandoned neighborhood. We trekked to a picnic shelter, poured coffee into our mugs, dunking the bagels in our coffee for some quick nourishment. Then we packed up the picnic, bundled up in our mittens and scarves to stroll through the wintry landscape. Large snowflakes bathed us and eased us into other worldly calm, immersing us into the beauty of the Beloved.