The sky was so gray that day, and even the stained glass looked dull.
It was Good Friday.
An intern at our country church had hauled in this gigantic cross, and laid it down at the front of the church. She had set folding chairs around the wooden beams. Nails had been tossed upon the carpet.
The service was at noon. I sat on cold metal, at the base of the cross. Eight of us, in all, huddled around that cross under the wooden spire, and that small room felt crushed by the dark. Jesus’ words rumbled in my spirit:
“But this is your hour — when darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:53)
We spoke the creeds, and I choked my way through some minor-key hymn. The intern read Scripture, and then she asked each of us to pick up a nail and pound it in to the cross. I took mine between my fingers, set it upon the cross, and pounded twice. And then I dropped my hammer, nail barely stuck into the wood, and then I walked out. I fished for the car keys in my pocket and left before the last hymn was sung. Tears streaming down my face, I was overcome with what Jesus did on account of His great love for us.
“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved” (Romans 9:25 MSG)
Before everything, He had ALREADY decided to love you.
You were pre-loved, and pre-approved, before the word “Jesus” ever crossed your lips. Before you were even born.
Envision the scenes.
The world is about to come into being, and you already exist as a thought in the mind of God.
Before God creates Niagara Falls, Mount Everest, the Sea of Galilee, or the ground on which you presently stand, He already loves you. “Even before he made the world, God loved us and he chose us.” (Ephesians 1:4)
Before the foundations of the world, He loved you.
Before the fall of Eden, He loved you.
Before He sent His Son splitting through the cosmos to this world, He loved you.
Before Christ died upon the cross, He loved you.
When He rose again, He loved you.
And He’s coming back again because He loves you.
When you messed up bad, He loved you.
When you won and when you lost, He loved you.
He loved you. And He likes you.
And He didn’t just say it. He proved it.
He loved you to death. And He’s loving you to life.
How often do I want to add something more to the cross? How often have I wanted to prove something to myself, to my friends, to God? To you?
From the cross, Jesus is telling us: Friend, you have nothing to prove. You are already approved. I am proving my love for you. Right. Here.
“God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8
Our striving is done. Our trying harder is pointless. If any of us ever thought we could be “enough” on our own, Jesus would never have had to lay down His life for us.
Behold, our King.
Watch how He loves you. Watch how He puts the good in Good Friday. See how He makes love an action, a sacrifice. Hold the nail in your hand, if only for a moment, and cry if you must, and then hammer just once if it’s all you can bear.
But look Him in the eye now before you leave. Look in the eye of your Savior, and see Him there, wearing so rich a crown, this Savior whispering His already-love over you.
“I loved you before I made you. I loved you already. You are preapproved, and pre-loved, and this is how you’ll know it for sure … and for always.”
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
~ 1 John 3:16
Contains some excerpts from my book, Love Idol — Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. This book … written for our preapproved hearts.