Is it time? To die?
“Always. Every day is a good day to die.”
Tell me what I must do
“Place your happiness and your life here on the altar, then step away.”
Shouldn’t I tie it down?
“You cannot tie cords so tight you cannot untie them. Only I can do that.”
Very well. Father, I give you my life, my happiness, my will and myself. [laying it on the altar]. I will do only that which I see you doing; when I do not see, I will ask and wait.
“Do you mean that with your whole heart?”
Probably not. But I mean it with all the heart I have, and can give. I give up the right to fight my own battles, or even to pick them. The right to defend myself, and shame my enemies. The right to, well, do whatever I want. What I want; the right to make independent decisions that are heedless of God’s desires.
All this and more, I give to you, O my God.
“That is enough. Now step away.”
[Read More] for my experience of being crucified with Christ.
God does not use chains, as I expect. He takes out a hammer and nails. Just as He begins to strike them, the picture inverts. I am not standing outside, watching my life on the altar before God the Father. I am on the altar, with Christ holding the hammer and nails. His nails.
I am spread-eagled on the cold marble slab. I could flinch away from his grip on my wrist. But I do not. The first nail lands in my palm. It is called Truth. Instead of a hammer, he is using the hilt of his Sword, the Word of God, to hammer Truth into my palm. I feel no pain, but a coldness enters my soul.
Then he goes to my other hand, and again uses his sword; this time, to hammer the nail of Love through my palm. Again, I feel no pain, but fire floods through me. I am suspended between flames and ice, pinned between Truth and Love.
Then with a mighty heave, he upends the altar. I feel a sharp jerk on my palms as they and my shoulders bear my weight, but I do not cry out. I do not even seem to be breathing anymore. There is no pain, except the nearly unbearable suspense.
Then Jesus strips off his robe, and girds himself with a towel. Then he weeps. Sorrow for all the sins I’ve done. All the sins that have been committed against me. All the joys that he longed to bring into my life, that I would not, could not receive. My eyes fill with tears, and join his in running over my unbound feet.
Then he wipes my feat clean with the towel, and picks up the last Nail. It is named Grace. This time, he picks up a true hammer, named Faith. This nail is longer than both Truth and Love put together, and I soon learn the awful reason why.
He gives a shout, and his Father comes. Wordlessly, he hands both hammer and nail to God the Father. Then he kneels at the foot of the slab, facing his Father, and slowly crosses his hands at the wrist — so the holes align! — and holds them above his head, on my feet.
The Father begins to hammer Grace into my feet, nailing the wrists of Jesus along with them. Ths time I feel pain — but not mine, which would’ve been pure agony. Rather, I feel the pain of Jesus who has already been broken for me; the holes are pre-drilled, and thus his pain and mine is less. And even the pain contains a kind of joy, perhaps like what women feel in childbirth, or losing their virginity. It drives away the cold and fire, replacing it with a golden shimmer that might be pleasure so intense it becomes pain, or vice versa.
Finally, with a mighty stroke, the Father cements Grace into place. I hang there, suspended between heaven and earth, my Savior nailed to my feet, his hands useless.
I lift my eyes, expecting a glorious deliverance, flocks of angels come to sign me home. But such is not to be.
Instead, the sky grows dark, and clouds block the suddenly weary sun. The wind picks up, and I am cold again; this time chilled to the bone. Around me people are jeering, and in the distance demons gather.
A fist strikes me. “Prophesy, why don’t you? If you are a son of God, and have such wisdom. Who hit you?” I turn, but there’s nobody there. “Shame?” I say softly, in a whisper? “Fear?” I turn, searching, confused, only to be struck on the other cheek from behind. I turn back, straining against the nails that now seem so constricting. But there’s nobody there. I feel the blows, from every side. Bruising my arms, twisting my stomach, battering my head, pounding my heart. I feel sure that if I only knew who it was that was beating me, I could stop them. But I don’t. My eyes are so filled with blood, I’m not sure I could see them even if they stood still. Their mocking laughter pierces me, wounding even more than the blows.
Then suddenly stops, along with all other noise. The air itself seems to grow quiet. Dimly through my clouded eyes — how much we take for granted hands to wipe them clean! — the darkness seems to recede. I see a bright figure, dressed in a robe. “Jesus” I croak. “Is that you?”
“Hello Ernie,” a gentle voice says. It is hard to recognize, but sounds familiar, and reassuring. That must be Jesus, right?
“It hurts,” I gasp through parched lips. “Please. Help me.”
“Of course,” the figure says. “That is why I came. I saw your suffering. I have come to give you peace. Release. Freedom from pain. All you have to do is let go,” he says, gesturing.
Let go? I turn my aching head to regard my hands, which I now realize are wrapped tightly around the nails.
“I will remove the nails from your hands, and set you free, but first you must let go.”
Still try to puzzle it out through the pain and dryness, the only word to bubble out from my brain is ‘Feet?’ Surely, I can’t be holding on with my feet, can I? Why can’t he start there?
A pause. Uncertainty? Surely not. The voice continues, as smoothly as before. Or nearly so. “You do not need feet where we are going. All you need to do is let go of the nails.”
The nails. Suddenly, I remember. Truth. Love. Is this the test? Is this what I must learn to let go of, in order to find happiness?
I must’ve said that aloud, as the voice responds instantly, “Yes, exactly. Let go, and I will give you all the happiness you desire.”
The word ‘desire’ is the fatal error: it snaps the spell. Suddenly clear-headed, I look straight ahead, and the scales fall away from my eyes. There stands a figure dressed in radiant light, smiling, bearded, offering a hand of friendship and sympathy. He is glorious.
I look down. Clinging at my feet is the most wretched specimen of humanity I’ve ever seen. Thin, unshaven, bloody, filthy, weak, and naked. If it weren’t for the nails through his wrists holding him to my feet, he’d probably have fallen over. He’s more mist than man at this point.
“You see,” continues the glowing figure in front of me. “That is what you once were, what you once worshipped. Follow me, and I promise you, you shall be like me.” He waves his hand, and a heavenly aroma wafts from him. I can almost hear music playing. My labored breath catches, and for a moment…
But no. Shaking my head, I look the angel of light — Satan — squarely in the eye, and with everything within me I say: “NO! Your happiness be damned. I desire nothing more than to die with my savior!”
Suddenly the air erupts with shrieks.The light disappears, caught up in an awful maelstrom. Demons flood the air, cavorting in mad delight, tearing me with their talons as they come by. The glowing figure reappears, bright no longer, but rather radiating darkness like unto the grave. He is dressed now in black, and a spear is held in one bony hand. “So, if death you desire, then death you shall have.” And with that, he plunges the spear into my side.
I scream. A scream that seems to last forever, even as I feel my heart burst, and the life pour out of my body. Yet, with the final threads of consciousness I whisper: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Then all goes dark.
It is finished.
Continued in Death, Part II: I Am Risen In Christ.