The Heart of Lent: how much do I love him?

I was so tired that night. If time and situation had allowed I would have fallen asleep on the couch before dinner. But with three young kids and a husband to feed, I could not. I pushed through, but as the evening went on I became more drained and less patient. By the time the kids were asleep and I had the opportunity to go to bed, I could hardly get there fast enough.

I hate days like this so I’m thankful they don’t happen often. And when they do happen, I am even more thankful for a husband that picks up the slack. That night, he cleaned up and did all the tasks I normally do before bed. He took the burden off me and let me escape. The next morning, my appreciation for him was renewed. I looked at him with the eyes I had in the beginning, the eyes of an infatuated girl.

His sacrifice endeared him to me.

I remember watching a reenactment of the crucifixion several years ago (decades even!) at a youth convention. I sat in the stadium, watching as the actors took Jesus and whipped him, knocking him to the ground. Seeing them spit on him, disrespecting him, humiliating him. By the time Jesus was carrying the cross, tears were stinging my eyes. Hearing his cries of pain sent them streaming down my cheeks.

the crucifixion: the heart of lent

There were two reasons for my tears. 1. I love Him. Seeing His suffering broke my heart. 2. His suffering was my fault. I could not, I cannot, say I’m sorry enough. In that moment of grief, I was torn. I knew that His death was necessary. I knew its significance. I even knew that it was temporary, that Jesus would soon rise from the grave. But I still hated that it had to happen. I hated to see his pain.

Because He is mine and I love Him. But how much?

Here’s the thing. I know that when God created the world it was perfect (Genesis 1 and 2). It wasn’t until Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3) that things went bad. I also know that even in the Garden of Eden God provided a means of restitution for the ones he loved by killing the animals to make animal-skin clothes for the fallen couple. I know that ever since that moment there has been a separation between God and man that no one has been able to fill. It is because of this separation – the division between what is holy and what is sinful – that the Jewish people were commanded to make sacrifices. These sacrifices were meant to atone for sin and restore the people to a right standing with God. I know that there was no possible way that this system could ever be conquered, that there was no way of escape from the sin → repent → sacrifice cycle. No human could ever be that good. No human could break the curse.

And I know that is why Jesus came. As fully God and fully man He is the one who could and did break the curse. He is the one who lived under the law without once breaking the law. He is the one in perfect standing with God. And he sacrificed Himself so the penalty of my sin wouldn’t fall on me. He died to save me from the pain of my just punishment. He died to give me something better. He did it because He loves me. I belong to Him.

I love him only because he loved me first. His sacrifice endeared him to me.

The only thing that I can attempt to relate this to is the love I have for my family. I am fiercely protective of them. I hate to see them suffer. But would I suffer to the extent that Jesus did for them? I hope so. But I sometimes wonder how much my own fear of pain would hold me back. Thankfully, Jesus’ love for me was stronger than His fear. It was and is stronger than the pain.

But knowing all of this is not enough. Knowing He is God is not enough. Knowing He created the world and that Jesus is His son is not enough. Because this alone would not make me love Him. I finally understand this to be true, and the realization is crushing.

The only reason I love Jesus – even with how amazing and wonderful He is (He is God!) – is because He loved me first. He loved me so much that He willingly submitted to torture. He chose to be humiliated and spit on and cursed. And it wasn’t because I loved Him in return. There was none to give. The only thing that made Him do it was His love for me. He took the burden off me and let me escape.

Now that I understand His love, now that I have experienced it and owned it, I can love H him in return. I couldn’t love Him on my own, but His love drew me in and took over. So the only question that remains is this:

Has His sacrifice endeared Him to me to the extent that I will give Him my whole heart? My whole life?

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