It's funny how posting an experience alters my own perception of it.
Reading my story over again, it was as though I saw my response to Jesus in a new light. I thought, "Whoa. What kind of crazy person just instinctively answers like that?"
I think it's because I fell in love with the Person of God, and not the religion around Him.
Like, if Jesus had said to me, "You have My religion; you follow My religion each moment of every day, and on Sundays, you get to go to church," I would have ended up sobbing at the top of the stairs and been crippled with depression for the rest of the holiday season, if not the rest of my life.
I could never have answered as I did if Jesus had not, for a long time before, been filling my heart and my life with His love. So my answer is really no credit to me whatsoever, and all credit to His work and His altogether lovely and irresistible nature.
I felt so peaceful and centered yesterday that I decided I wouldn't go for a walk, but when I finished my blog, Jesus said, Come out with Me; we'll listen to the second half of Handel's Messiah.
Joy and delight filled me; I knew exactly what He meant.
When I walk, I like to listen to Handel's Messiah. When I leave the door, I begin with "Comfort Ye My People."
By the time I reach a stretch of solemn, towering pines, their branches filtering the sunlight, the ground gold and green from the needles, I'm hearing "Goodwill towards men," which has more than once caused me to cry from the simple joy of it.
However, by the time I get home, I have reached the songs which describe the Passion of Christ. It's excruciating to listen to those songs, and on more than one occasion, I have skipped over them.
Yesterday, I did not. So many times I wanted to put my hands over my ears. The worst is when they mock Him as He hangs on the cross. I just can't understand it. Isn't it enough that they should kill Him? Must they then actually mock Him as He's dying?
And the things they say to Him, the Son of God! And what is Jesus doing, while this is happening? He is forgiving the ones that crucified Him, He taking care of His grief stricken mother and He is reassuring the thief that hangs next to Him.
As I listened to this, sorrow and grief filled me. When I reached the song, "Thy Rebuke Has Broken His Heart," I had to keep taking deep breaths because of the heaviness that weighed down on me. Tears filled my eyes.
This entire time, of course, Jesus was right beside me; we walked along together. I don't know if this is true or not, but I like to think that, by opening my heart to those songs and moving through the grief, in a small way, I feel like I can keep vigil with Him.
The best part about doing this is, of course, reaching the end. As soon as I heard the chords for "But Thou Didst Not Leave His Soul In Hell," my heart lifted. Indescribable joy filled me; my tears changed to tears of joy.
Even the landscape was transformed. It glittered and shone with light; light poured down through the bare branches of the winter trees. The light was dazzling on the road.
"Is it over already?" I asked Jesus, with disbelieving joy. And then I felt guilty, for thinking His passion was short lived, and He reminded me of this:
"A woman, when she gives birth to a child, has grief (anguish, agony) because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers her pain (trouble, anguish) because she is so glad that a man (a child, a human being) has been born into the world.
"So for the present you are also in sorrow (in distress and depressed); but I will see you again and [then] your hearts will rejoice, and no one can take from you your joy (gladness, delight)." (John 16:21-22)
Worship and love poured out of me, as I walked along the road. And then I was listening to "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates." It paints such a gorgeous pictures of Jesus' triumphant return to His Father, having conquered death once and for all. I felt shy, because Jesus is the King of Glory, and the Lord of Hosts.
I carried you with Me through those gates, Jesus said.
I thought that was an extraordinary thing for Him to say, and I didn't see how it could possibly be true.
So, He reminded me of this:
"If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.
"For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God."
-Colossians 3:1-3, Amplified Bible
I'm still pondering this thought. I never thought about it quite like that before; that, just as He died carrying our sins, He rose again carrying our redeemed and new lives safely with Him, and through the everlasting gates.
"But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus."