adjective sav·age \ˈsa-vij\
not domesticated or under human control : wild
Today, I woke up early enough to go for a run. I grabbed my phone and opened my podcast app. I usually love catching up on sermons, but today I opted for another one of my favorites. This American Life is a show produced by NPR, and it covers a range of topics in a really compelling way. I clicked play and set off.
THE HEARTBREAKING STORY
I listened to episode #586 entitled, “Who Do We Think We Are?” The second story in the episode quickly grabbed my attention. [Here is the mature part of the post.] A young woman began telling her story. At the age of seven, while living in Karachi, Pakistan, her family made the decision for her to undergo a practice known as female genital mutilitation. She would refer to it in the episode as FGM. The woman talked about how this brutal practice profoundly affected her throughout the rest of her life. First, she was confused. Later, she was deeply hurt. Now it seems like she’s moving into a thoughtful phase of personal healing and public advocacy against this practice. Here's the kicker -- she experienced FGM because of her family’s religious beliefs.
It’s hard to be passive as you are listening to someone, even a stranger, describe the area of their deepest pain and vulnerability. I couldn’t help but think about other vulnerable people around the world. There are so many instances of inhumanity that I often forget to acknowledge. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about my own family and how much I love them, and what I would do if something like this happened to them. One of the redeeming parts of the woman’s story is when her brother, as an adult, realized what his sister had experienced. He became an outspoken advocate for the women who had also been affected. He even had the chance to speak at the United Nations to denounce the practice of FGM. I love the courage of those who stand up for others.
SEEING SOMEONE SUFFER
I came back from my run. I was feeling a little more raw than normal, and I was eager to dive into the scriptures. Maybe I expected my daily reading to include an engaging parable or a comforting Psalm. That’s not what I found at all. “Jesus prays in the Garden.” That was the heading of the passage in Matthew 26. Several years ago, I got to visit the Garden of Gethsemane. I tried to picture the weight that Jesus felt the night before He died. Today, I saw those moments in a new light.
We watch as Jesus finishes up a meal with His closest friends. Earlier that night, He dropped a bombshell. He told them that someone from their group would betray him. Judas confronts Jesus and then leaves the room in dramatic fashion. I can only imagine that the atmosphere was thick with tension. After dinner, the group made their way to an olive grove. I was still feeling pretty stirred as I read.
Jesus asks three of His closest friends to spend some time with him. He’s obviously shaken up. He confirms this as He takes a few steps away, drops His face to the ground, and says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."
It’s hard to watch someone you love experience pain. I remember when I was young, I went to a baseball field with my parents and my younger brother Austin. My dad spent time coaching my brother on his batting. When the pitch came, Austin kept moving his feet. My dad had a “brilliant” idea. He told my mom to stand right beside my brother for the next pitch. She was going to kneel down, and help him remember to stand his ground. It worked! Austin stood still as the pitch came, but he also followed through with his swing. The bat swung around too far, and on accident, hit my mom in the head. She wasn’t seriously injured, but for a few moments, she just held her head in silence. Tears began to stream down her face. My heart wrenched inside me. I felt so powerless and sad. I just wanted her pain to stop.
That’s how I felt this morning. I’ve pledged my life to love and follow Jesus. I’ve experienced His presence in profound ways. To describe our relationship as “personal” would be an understatement. Today in the scripture, I didn’t see Jesus as the religious figurehead of my faith. I saw Him as a person that I really love. I saw Him suffering.
In those moments in the Garden, Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that in a few hours, He would be captured by the Romans and abandoned by His friends. He knew that He would be stripped naked and mercilessly whipped, while His critics cheered with disgusting menace. He knew that the physical torture would tear open His back and dehumanize Him in almost every way. He knew that in front of Golgatha, the sinewy palms of His hands would be punctured by large metal spikes. He knew that He would die. Slowly.
I spent time with Jesus in the Garden this morning. I had to confront the fact that all of the suffering He was experiencing had something to do with me. “He was pierced for MY transgressions. By His stripes, I am healed."
EVERY OTHER RELIGION VS JESUS
I know I’m generalizing, but every other religion in the world says that your salvation comes at your own expense. You are saved by what you suffer, what you do, and how you behave. In the True Story of the World, that is not the case. Our salvation doesn’t come at our expense, but at the expense of God Himself. This is so explosive. This is a wild and untamed grace. It's more. It's a savage grace that is capable of overcoming any sin and healing any hurt.
As I spent time with Jesus this morning, I remembered the cost of the hope that has changed my life. I was overwhelmed by the thought. If God would give so much for me, that means I have tremendous value in His eyes. To know His Gospel is to fully see His character. This faith is sometimes painful, and it’s not always pretty, but it’s real. That changes everything.