Friday, March 29, 2013

A Letter to Jason After Kissing the Cross

Dear Jason,

We never met while you were here but I'm someone who cares for your dad, so I hope you won't mind a letter from me.*

When I was leaving your dad's house last night, I felt a powerful urge to kiss your forehead in the beautiful painting of you that was sitting on the chair next to the front door. I began to lean toward you, then suddenly felt shy, so I just bowed to you instead. Almost immediately I was sorry I'd held back.

This afternoon I went to the "Good Friday" service at my church. Part of the hour-and-a-half-long remembrance was an ancient practice called Veneration of the Cross. A simple wooden cross the size of a man's body was carried up the center aisle to the altar by one of the robed deacons, who stopped several times on his journey to cry out, "Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world," to which all the gathered responded, "Come let us adore." Each time we said that, I couldn't help feeling strongly that a word was missing: "O come let us adore HIM," like in the Christmas song "O Come All Ye Faithful." It's HIM, my heart protested, not the cross that matters.

And then we all had to file out of the pews and up to the foot of the altar and kiss that cross—and all I could think about was how much I wish I had kissed your forehead last night. It would have meant so much more to me than kissing that cross, which wasn't even the real cross that Jesus died on. Oh, OK, I know, that painting wouldn't have been your real forehead either. But for some reason it feels to me a lot more real and important than an unbloody unused cross.

Oh! Suddenly I think I know why I wanted to do that: because your forehead is where the wound—a bloody one—was made that ended your life here. Now I know why I couldn't care less about kissing a cross on Good Friday: it's Jesus hands and feet I'd rather kiss. And his pierced side, from which his earthly life flowed, like yours flowed from your forehead.

I decided to write you this letter after watching a video someone posted on Facebook this evening. It's not pretty to watch, and it's about Jesus' mother's feelings, but as I listened, all I could think of was your father's broken heart:
"O my Jesus, my loving son,
I watch you and my heart is torn apart.
O my Jesus, my gentle one,
who came to me straight from the Father's heart:
As I see your bloodied face
I almost cannot bear
the memories of when I held you close.
You've been such a good son,
you've done the Father's will....
O my son, God's precious one,
how I long to hold you close and make it go away.
O my son, God's holy one,
I cannot stop the pain,
but with all my heart I promise I will pray.
O my son who healed the leper,
and gave the blind eyesight,
O my son who showed us true love,
how could this be right?
O my son, my precious one,
I see the cuts and bruises everywhere,
and I remember when
you giggled on my lap
And now they've tortured you and stripped you bare
O my son, God's holy one,
How I long to hold you close and take it all away....
I cannot stop the pain,
But with all my heart I promise I will pray,
O my son.
A few lines in the song don't seem to apply at all and will, I'm afraid, remind your dad of his anger if he hears them: "This is the sacrifice for love you freely choose" and "we've known all along that this just has to be." Of course the manner and timing of your death did NOT have to be! Nor was your death a freely chosen sacrifice! Yet, as I began to write this paragraph, a question came to my mind: Was this death somehow the result of you choosing to love? To love your unworthy friend whose recklessness (like the recklessness of Jesus' friend Judas) made you pay the price?

This is the only thing that would make even a speck of sense to your dad.

I pray with all my soul that he will very soon have all the answers for which he aches. And that those answers will give him a peace that he can live (here) with and in—a peace that "the world" (this world without you in it, which will always, 'til the end, hurt) "cannot give."

With love, from your dad's friend

P.S. If you haven't already, please find my son Daniel and kiss his tiny forehead for me.

* Jason was killed early Sunday morning, March 3, when his car, in which he was the passenger and which was being driven in the wrong lane by a friend "under the influence," collided hard and head-on with a milk truck. Jason was only twenty-one.