-by Sara Wagner
The other week, I was asked to teach Senior High Sunday school a few days before I was actually to do it. No problem, I can usually pull any number of things out of my overcrowded brain to discuss from the Bible. Had a few ideas, but none of them really seemed quite right.
Usually, I trust my gut on these kinds of things, waiting for the uncomfortable feeling to tell me, "nope, that's not it" or the excitment that stems from my heart that is the Holy Spirit's thumbs up signal. Randomly, I was getting neither; so I decided to keep on going with what I had planned out.
Back/side track (sorry for the slight bunny trail, this will make sense, I promise): I grew up in a Christian family. The way I tell it, I was a Christian since the womb practically. So I know a lot about the Bible, Christianity, and Jesus. But for the first 14 years of my life, it was just pure memorization: I couldn't tell you what it all really meant, let alone if it meant anything to me. But somewhere in my teenage years I realized that I was just saying out of duty that God was my friend. I didn't like that, so I asked Him to show me who He really was. Over the years, as our friendship grew, I started realizing that a lot of the things I 'believed', all these wonderful doctrines of the Christian faith, I didn't actually understand. So, I go to my Friend and say, "hey, what the heck is this anyway?!" And again, we go on a journey of learning what I really believe for myself, and making my faith my own.
All this has led up to the last year or so, when my wonderings has led me to the cross. We sing about the cross. We take communion once a month, if not more. We have a cross hanging up at church, on the wall, all over the place. But I started to realize that I didn't actually understand what it meant, what Jesus' death and resurrection meant for me. So, like before, I just asked Him so show me. Now, I was expecting some intense "ah-ha!" moment to just hit me, maybe during a communion time, or a ministry time after a sermon-you know, one of those 'slain-in-the-Spirit' moments where God uploads new data into your heart between the end of the sermon and lunch. But I shoulda known that my Friend hasn't taught me in that way before, so why should I expect it now.
The Friday night before I was to teach Sunday school (see, I told you I'd get back to it), I blessedly had some alone time at the end of a really stressful week. I was sitting on the floor, talking with Jesus about it, and He says, "I'll take some of that stress for you. Why don't we nail it to the cross?" Now, I've always had a hard time asking for forgiveness from Jesus, or asking Him to take away my burdens. I've always pictured myself holding a heavy bundle in my hands and looking up at Jesus on the cross, not wanting to give Him my burdens and sins because it would be put on His shoulders; He's my friend, and I don't want to hurt Him. But that night I was so done with the stress I said, "Sure!" and gave it to Him.
I then imagined Him taking the bundle of stress from my hands, carrying it over to the cross, nailing it there, and then coming back to sit with me. We looked at each other for a moment; I looked at the cross, back at Jesus, back at the cross, back again to Jesus. "You're not there," I said, pointing to the cross. He smiled. "No, I'm not. I rose again, remember?" I looked back at the cross, empty except for my burden, then back at my Jesus again. And then, "Oh, I get it," and smiled. And that was it. No flashing heavenly lights, no choir of angels, no falling on the floor and shaking at the practicaly manifest presence of God. Just me and Jesus sitting and having a conversation; and me finally getting that He died on the cross, taking our sins and burdens with Him, but then got off of the cross, LEAVING THE SINS THERE, and rose again three days later, defeating death and making a way for us to have life with Him. No biggie....only probably the most amazing revelation I've had thus far in my 25 years of life!
I realized that I could give my burdens and sins to Jesus, and while He would have to carry them for a while, it was only the length of time it took for Him to nail it to the cross and then leave it there. Now-especially with the sins that keep trying to come back and take control over me-I can point to the cross and say, "Nope, you don't have hold over me anymore. Jesus left it nailed to the cross, and that's where it's gonna stay!" And it's such a freedom to be able to give Him my burdens, almost like a literal weight is taken off my back sometimes. The idea is that I no longer try to carry the burden on my own terms, under my own power, trying to be independent and do it myself. God wants me to trust Him with my burdens, and to come to Him for forgiveness for my sins. At the cross is grace and mercy and freedom! so much freedom!
So, it's the night before I have to teach, and my roommate and I are talking before we fall asleep, and I tell her about the conversation Jesus and I had. In my half-asleep state, I say before thinking: "Maybe I'm supposed to talk about that in Sunday school tomorrow." And then realized what I just said, and the Holy Spirit said, "Bingo!" I was like, "Huh? But, I haven't preped anything about that, and I won't have time to do it tomorrow morning before church." Holy Spirit.....said nothing, cause He'd said what He needed to. Fell asleep. Next morning, got to church, still prepped for what I had planned to do earlier (might still do it in the future, who knows), but during worship, finally admitted..."Ok, I'll talk about what happened Friday night." Frantically looked up worship songs on my iPod to have as background music, got into class, and taught without any notes and using only one verse that I had (thankfully) remembered sorta fit the topic only mintues before I actually spoke. Afterwards, I had the kids all write down something they wanted to leave at the hastily sketched cross on the pushpin board, put on the music, and sat there, hoping I did alright. I needn't have worried, cause it was the Holy Spirit's talk, not mine. The kids pounced on it! I had several come up to me afterwards saying that it was really good, one of them saying he'd never thought of it that way before-that he'd had the same problem of picturing Jesus on the cross and actually nailing his sins and burdens onto Jesus, but now had that same revelation as I had that Jesus wasn't there anymore!
Isn't it amazing how something you've always known can suddenly be so profound as to change your whole life?