Yesterday was Good Friday and thus continuing on in my theme this year of spending more time thinking about and reflecting on what this Easter season is all about, I spent some of my afternoon at the Center for Renewal and Retreat. The Center is this retreat house in the "backwoods" of a local town that is located on 38 acres of land. It has hiking paths, prayer huts, and even an outdoor chapel...as well as a comfy little house...for you to use and just get away from the hustle and bustle of life in order to meet with God. I had been there before, but I was really excited to go back....especially after the crap-tastic morning I had.
There's something about being surrounded by nature that truly helps me to connect with God. I see Him in the glare of the sun or the formation of the clouds. I hear Him in the chirping of the birds or the flowing of a stream. I sense Him in the current of a breeze and the crunching of leaves beneath my feet. It's like He's there....right there....all around me....and I know it!
I guess it's for this reason that I find it so easy to pray whilehiking in the woods. Some people talk to a walking buddy, I use the time to talk to God...and yesterday was no different. I spent the good part of an hour walking and talking with God...and I was brutally honest with Him, sharing how at times I feel like I'm not even a Christian because the most basic concepts of faith I fail to truly understand. I even repented for the times and ways I've put on a show, pretending our relationship was what I thought it was suppose to be instead of what it actually is. And I relished in the fact that, even when I'm not honest with the world, I am always honest with God...and I'm no longer afraid to be real with Him....even in the ugly times. Then I headed inside for a time of group worship.
I can't seem to find the right words to explain myself... but group worship was so hard for me. I should have spent the time reflecting on the cross, but my mind was on how sucky of a Christian I felt like in comparison to every one else that was in the room. I would try to sing and try to pray but I just kept getting more and more frustrated...because I'm not like them. I don't like to pray out loud....I don't lift my hands in worship...I only get on my knees before God in the comfort of my own room. I found myself boiling down Christianity and faith in God into these simple outward displays... and the fact that I don't show them to the world was making me feel pretty condemned.
Then I opened my bible to Romans 5 and began reading...." Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory...When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners... And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation."
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).....NO CONDEMNATION...NONE! As I read these verses, and thought about the rest of Romans (by far my favorite book in the Bible), I couldn't help but praise God! In fact I ended up heading back outside after group worship, and going to the outdoor sanctuary to sit in front of the cross there, singing my own songs of praise!
So maybe that's not the traditional lesson or focus for a Good Friday...but for me it's what I needed....especially heading into celebrating Christ's Resurrection Sunday....where it's His freedom that allows me to worship Him in my own way....no matter what it looks like or how it compares to others!