TweetIt was five years ago during Easter weekend when my husband Nick and I got off a plane from Boston to visit my family here in Ohio for the holiday. It was my favorite time of year but what I was most looking forward to was spending time with my siblings. I was close with all of them, and since our move to the east coast, I was eager to catch up with everyone.
In the time that I had been gone, my family had changed significantly. One of my brothers moved to Los Angeles, my other brother began having children. His oldest son Zach was 2 that Easter and there was another baby was on the way. Although I was a loving and enthusiastic aunt, I really hadn’t had the time to adapt to the changes that had occurred in my family.
After just a few hours, it was clear that the family dynamic had changed. Everything we talked about was about babies and pregnancy. From what they ate to when they slept, it seemed the topics were endless. I had been looking forward to hearing what was going on with everyone – my sister’s new job, my parents move to Virginia – and sharing details of the new life that was unfolding for me and Nick in Boston, but no one seemed interested in that conversation. My patience was wearing thin. We were about to say grace before the Easter meal, and we began making the sign of the cross as we always did. I began saying “in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit when I stopped and realized that everyone else was going at a much slower pace. Everyone else had slowed their words and exaggerated every movement so two year old Zach could follow along.
My anger and annoyance got the better of me, and my voice dripped with sarcasm as I asked, “Can we please pray like normal people?”
The room was suddenly quiet and I’ll never forget the look of anger and hurt on my brother’s face after I said that.
I said those words before I had a child of my own, before I really knew anything about parenting. I said those words in pure reaction to what I saw before me: the changed family dynamic and everyone behaving differently.
I thought a lot about that incident as I movde into Holy Week this year. I wonder how many times have I lived my life of faith purely by what my eyes have seen, rather than what my heart believes to be true? It makes me look at the people in Jesus’ life who lived by their eyes.
What did Peter see? He saw Jesus in chains. Jesus was mocked, tortured, and condemned. Peter’s eyes read the situation and reacts: he denies even knowing who the man was. What about Pilate? What did he see? He saw a crowd before him, shouting threats and he reacts: he gives into their demand for Jesus to be crucified. We have all these instances of people in Jesus’ life who make decisions by what their eyes take in.
And then there’s Jesus, the one person who doesn’t live that way. Jesus never lived his life purely by what he saw. Imagine what he would have done, imagine what his life might have been like, had he relied only on what his eyes saw: cruelty, hypocrisy abandonment, betrayal, illness, idolatry.
Jesus knew there was more than just what his eyes can tell him.
Jesus lived and died in a faith beyond what his eyes could see. And he asks us, he instructs us to live as he did: in love, in service, in gratitude.
And that is the invitation of Good Friday.
Good Friday is not about death. It is the time we stop living by only what our eyes can see and allow our hearts to take us where Jesus is calling us to be.
When you step out of this church and into the street, when you lose your job, when a parent gets sick, when your marriage is beginning to fray, when addiction or cancer touches your family, what do your eyes tell you to do? Our eyes will often tell us to run. To deny. To be afraid. To give in. To hold onto the anger. Our eyes tell us to save ourselves. To safeguard our family, our possessions, our own pride.
Every step of Jesus journey’ gave him more evidence to do those same things but he didn’t. He responded differently. He knew that in the face of darkness, our eyes advise us to shrink back, despite the quiet whisper of God in our heart telling us to stand up. Good Friday. This is the day we do not shrink back. Good Friday. This is the day we move forward like Jesus. This is when we move beyond the eyes of own individualistic life and share it with and for others. We do this because we know that if we live only by our eyes, we may miss the resurrection.
Because it wasn’t until my own son turned two years old, and I saw him fumbling through making the sign of the cross and I, without thinking, began saying it out loud very slowly and I began making exaggerated motions with my hands, when I heard the cock crow in my life and I suddenly remembered what I had said five years ago at easter.
It was that moment my heart was broken open by God, so open that I could finally offer my brother an apology so many years later. And it was then I realized that we must allow our hearts to be broken open by God, so they can be open to one another.
Are you trying to live your life by what your eyes see before you? Or do you live out your life by what your heart believes?