5:30 AM, Sunday, March 11th, 2007
I am walking down a street of some kind, carrying three stones I, um, excreted earlier. Semi-round, they are roughly the size of a quarter, nickel, and dime, respectively. Clean now, I juggle them in my hand, relieved to have them out, but not quite sure what to do with them.
It is night, but I am approaching a streetlight where i can finally examine them. They all have a fine texture, almost like a random-dot stereogram. More than almost — if I stare at each of them I can make out a word. Respectively, I see:
It is a bit surprising to see “Self” as the smallest pebble, but there you have it. Having named them, I understand why it was important to excrete them — so I could get them out into the open and deal with them. But, how to deal with them?
- Hi Ernie.
- What do you want from me?
- Your sin.
Wordlessly, I hand him the three stones. I watch.
He takes the first stone, Insecurity, in his right hand. He cradles it in the spike-hole at the base of his palm. He does the same with Pride on his left, then hands Self back to me. I start to have an awful premonition about what will happen next.
Oh God, no. Not again.
Where the streetlight was — or perhaps it was the streetlight — stands a lone cross. It is now late afternoon, but the sky is filled with patches of red-tinged clouds. In the ruddy light, Jesus ascends a tiny platform at the base of the cross; like the kind used for hangings in the Old West.
On the platform are a hammer and three nails. And nobody besides me to use them.
- Jesus, no. Please let this cup pass from me.
- As it is written, so must it be.
- How can I do this to you?
- You have already done this to me, Ernie. Now you must own up to your sin.
- Father, is there no other way?
No, Ernie. For this is how it has always been, since the dawn of creation. A price must be paid.
Swallowing hard, I mount the steps to stand beside my savior. To execute him. There are steps on either side, so I can reach the arms of the cross. Jesus stands on a wooden block.
I pick up the hammer, which is named Confession. I realize with a start that this is the hammer I thought I needed to forge — and failed to — back in August 2005. I realize the first two nails are Truth and Love, part of the same set I was given at that time. But what is the third? I look closer, and I see it has the name Spirit.
Jesus is waiting. I pick up the Hammer of Confession and the nail of Love. The stone of Insecurity has expanded, like a sponge in water, to fill the hole in Jesus palm. It is red like blood, so it is an easy target. Gritting my teeth, I hammer my Lord to a cross.
I hope the pre-drilled hole will make it easier on him, but that’s only half true. He does not cry out, but wracking shudders flow through his body with every blow. I hear wailing sobs — but those are mine, not his.
The dark deed done, I pick up a nail of Truth, and hammer it into Pride on the other hand. This expanded stone glows green through his skin; sickly, like kryptonite.
I step back to ‘admire’ my handiwork. Out of insecurity and pride, using truth and love as weapons, I have crucified my Lord. Again.
And I’m not even finished. Jesus is in pain, but not mortally so. There is one more nail, and one more stone.
- Lord, have mercy on me, a fool.
I kneel at the foot of the cross. Jesus painfully lifts himself on Truth and Love so I can slide the block away. Beneath is the hole on the well-used cross, which aligns easily with the holes on his feet. I look at the stone of Self, which is a light (if dappled) grey, easily mistaken for white. It is soft, squishy even, like dry gum. I stick it onto the point of Spirit, my final nail.
I look one last time into the eyes of my Saviour, suspended above me. To my amazement, there is no condemnation; a fierce joy — even gratitude! — blazes through the immense pain he is suffering. Perversely, this spawns a new round of weeping in me, and I bathe his feet with my tears.
Picking up Confession, I begin to hammer Spirit and Self into Jesus. I expect it to be even easier than the first two, where the nails sliced through the sponge-like substance of the assimilated stones. But Self and Jesus do not mix easily. For the first time, I hear him cry out; each touch of Self is like acid to his flesh. Self liquefies, covering, encasing, and quenching Spirit. Sparks fly, and a deadly blackness seeps into his feet..
- O my Lord, what have I done to thee?
- How long and how oft have I tainted thee with me?
I cannot do it. It is not simply a matter of will, but strength itself has failed me. It is then I feel my Father’s arms around me, cradling me in his lap, guiding my arms with his strength.
Complete the work, Ernie. Finish it, for only then can you both be free.
Nodding, I tighten my grip upon the hammer, and with the Father’s strength behind me the Spirit drives Self not merely into Jesus, but all the way through into the cross, in one blinding collision of darkness and light. The very air seems to scream. I collapse into my Father’s arms. My last thought as consciousness ebbs is, “At least I didn’t need to pierce his heart” — as blood like water pours out of his side, to fall refreshingly on my face.
I wake up cradled in the arms of Jesus, newly risen (as always :-). He gives me a hug, and I hold him close for along time.
To be continued….