Awful Innocence

Hushed tones, dimmed lights, flickering candles. The somber, reflective, somehow dreadfully anticipatory Good Friday service.

The drums shattered the silence–their rhythmic, cacophonous violence piercing the layers of my daily doldrummic existence. The crescendoing music, shouting drums, and wailing voices shook the cobwebs from my soul, focused my eyes on the stark, coarse cross illuminated at the front. Imagination breathed life to theology–I could see the crowds filled with hate seeking to destroy the Man filled with love. The fiercely clenched hands of the soldiers as they held the nails in place.

I realized my hands were fiercely clenched as well–except that instead of nails, I clenched… crayons. With my four year old son sitting on my lap, equally transfixed, my next thought was,

“This is too awful for my boy.”

That’s not a thought sitting in church often produces. Somehow, even though the Bible could be R rated, both in terms of content and theme, church is often rated G. What is the result of flanel-boarding and over-veggietailing the Gospel? When does preserving innocence dissipate into sterilization?

And so I balanced my son in my lap and my convictions in my heart–wrestling with what was best for my boy. He turned to me at one point, looked me in the eyes, and whispered, “Daddy, this is scary. I don’t like scary things.” I held him tight, whispering explanations of love, gift, and life. He settled into my embrace, his trust in me calming his heart. And still I asked the question–Is this too awful for my boy?

Until the final song, when I was struck once again by Friday’s brutal truth. “Alas, did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for such a wretch as I?”

Would he devote that sacred head for such a wretch… The mystery of Friday shook me, rattled me, and made me realize I was asking the wrong question, and it was masking the meaning of the moment. The cross leaves only one question.

Is my boy too awful for the Savior?

May we never cease to be awed by the simple, profound, earth-shattering answer: No. May our efforts to clean the cross never culminate with the sterilization of the gospel.

It was on a Friday that He breathed His last, uttering the words, “It is finished.”

It is finished indeed.

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About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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