In every experience of our lives, we choose what we see. One person looks at the snow falling today, and sees only the discomforting realities: dangerous roads, freezing temperatures, annoying commute to work, etc. And another person sees only the beauty and magic: She sees the snow as fairy dust that covers everything with purity, she hears the enchanting music and sees the splendor as the white flakes transform the world into a wonderland, calling her to explore her own grand adventure.
For 2,000 years, Christianity has been focused on the crucifixion of Jesus. The suffering. The torment that Jesus endured as punishment for our sins. Movies have been made that glorify the intense suffering he endured. He is still pictured in many churches, hanging on the cross. Many churches encourage us to focus on the pain he endured, which reminds us daily of the punishment that we deserve as humans, just for being born.
As a little girl learning about Jesus’ intense suffering, I became afraid that I would suffer someday like that too. It’s a natural thought to have, when you are taught to follow Jesus. I took the call to follow him very seriously, and I had nightmares about one day possibly having to endure what he did. I didn’t want to be a mediocre Christian – I wanted to be just like him – courageous, loving, and willing to die for what I believed. I knew he already took my punishment, and that I didn’t NEED to suffer, but I wanted to be willing to suffer, out of love and commitment to him. It was terrifying.
Last week I posted The Biggest Christian Lie Ever Told, where I revealed the truth that we are not inherently sinful, but that we are innocent and inherently good. This caused a lot of controversy, and I am amazed at how many people used their own kids as examples to prove that we are not inherently good, but full of sin. You can’t see the sadness and absurdity of this unless you have let go of the Christian grid. The entire Christian belief system hinges on the fact that we are BAD, and need a savior, or else we will go to hell. The idea that we are sinful is so crucial to this system, that people use their own kids as proof that we are inherently evil. Wow.
When I courageously let go of my Christian beliefs, I felt instant freedom and joy, but a lot of questions came up for me.
One main question, was:
“If we don’t need to be saved from anything, why did Jesus have to suffer and die?”
My entire life, the idea of Jesus intensely suffering for ME, was SO ingrained, it took me a long time of having distance from Christian theology to be able to see that my question itself came from within the Christian grid. The only way to see the answer, is to have eyes outside of the Christian story. When you have so many songs running through your head about Jesus dying for YOU, it’s not an easy idea to let go of. It’s a mental construct that was woven deeply into my thoughts. So it took time to dismantle it and build new neural-pathways. Once I did, I was able to discover what Jesus actually wants us to see from his life.
When a baby is born, it is often after many hours of painful labor. But in most cases, once the new miracle of life arrives, there is nothing but celebration. We don’t hold this precious new baby and focus on how terrible the labor was. My mom said that once each of us five kids were born, the pain of labor was a distant memory – almost unreal, compared to the miracle of us being born.
The fact is, we have no idea how much Jesus actually suffered. The only reason we have glorified and magnified and exaggerated how much he suffered, is because we need the suffering to be huge in order for the Christian story to make sense. He HAD to suffer more than any other human had, in order to equal the punishment of the entire sin of the world. But once you accept that we are inherently good and have never been separated from God, there no longer needs to be any focus at all on Jesus’ suffering.
Yes, we know he was crucified on a cross. Most likely, that was not pleasant. However, this is the same extraordinary man who healed diseases and rose above every physical limitation. Why is it so preposterous to think that he was able to rise above the pain? I think he did completely transcend the pain. He embraced it, and it transformed him. And he literally rose above it, because even the crucifixion couldn’t hold him down. He conquered death. Why couldn’t he also conquer pain?
I think Jesus is deeply saddened that we are choosing to see the cross instead of the miracle of the Resurrection.
As Paulo Coelho says in The Alchemist:
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
I don’t know about you, but I choose to see the miracle.
When I look at the snow today, I don’t see anything but a delightful and magical wonderland.
Image Credit: Bert Kaufmann