Friday, January 18, 2013

Passover Crimson, Snowfall White

He's been near and dear for many years.  She was fairly new on the scene, becoming his wife in the summertime. I go to a lot of weddings.  I cried at theirs, because I had prayed for this moment for so long, because he was so happy, because she was so beautiful, so perfect for him, and because the ceremony put Christ on display so clearly, so unashamedly.  She wore a long white dress with aqua-colored sandals.  He wore a white shirt with an aqua-colored tie and a content smile.  We were on the beach and basking in dazzling sunshine.  It was glorious.

"We've both been through a lot, and we want to start off strong," was his explanation for paying for professional pre-marital Christian counseling.  When the counselor indicated the end of his typical sessions, they took his offer to continue, pressing deeper into their pasts, gaining tools for the future.

Sexual brokenness haunted each of their histories.  "She talks to the girls about remaining pure because she suffered the pain of promiscuity beginning as a teen," he said of a ministry in which they served together. "I was the old virgin on the panel," he laughed, but as a victim of sexual abuse, he is also able to minister to needful teens uniquely. I was humbled by their authenticity, blessed by their willingness to be used in this way.

I've read quite a lot of the Bible, and the more I do, the more I am in absolute awe and can declare with the Psalmist, "Oh, how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day," and "How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" {Psalm 119:97, 103} Truly, hardly a day passes in which He does not speak specifically and directly to my heart through His word. And it IS a promise that He would do this, so I'm not sure why I am surprised.  Really, I should expect nothing less, but He's still building that faith in me, I suppose.

In the last 3 years I've made my way through most of the Old Testament and quite a bit of the New in a more systematic way than usual. A while back I got a little chuckle out of Hezekiah re-instituting the Passover in chapter 30 of 2 Chronicles, because it reminded me of the semi-rag tag nature of my own church...

"For a multitude...had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed.  For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 'May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.'  So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people." 

Full of grace, Hezekiah's Passover was also glorious...

"So there was great joy in Jerusalem because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.  Then the Levitical priests arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven." {v. 26-27}

Passover: One of three main Jewish festivals to commemorate protection from the plague of death against the firstborn in Egypt and liberation from Egyptian slavery.

That's the definition my Bible's dictionary gives it.  Hezekiah re-instituted this important festival, because the people needed to remember their great deliverance by their great and covenantal God.  They needed to recount the red blood on their doorposts, and the protection it afforded them. Reading the account caused me to pause and remember, too.

There were a couple of really wicked kings after Hezekiah, but then Josiah's reign begins.  Slowly and thoroughly, he removed the idols, and repaired the temple and calls the people back to their God.  And like Hezekiah, Josiah also had to re-institute the Passover celebration which had not been celebrated in about 75 years.  Josiah's Passover was even more glorious than Hezekiah's...

"There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet, nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests and Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." 
{2 Chronicles 35: 18}

Passover, Passover, and more Passover is what I was reading about in the last couple of weeks, and therefore thinking quite a bit about.  The passing over of sin at the Cross was evidently something the Lord was wanting me to think on and celebrate.  Christ, the Passover Lamb, the fulfillment of all of those celebrations, the cessation of the sacrificial system, the fully and forever atoning bloodshed.

Those summer newlyweds came to visit in a cold month.  I prayed that it would snow for the desert-dwelling-duo, and it did. They threw snowballs, and built snowmen, and even shoveled the stuff. It was glorious. Different from the dazzling white of the sunny beach wedding, but glorious!

There was a bit of girltalk during their visit. I wish there had been more. She said her story, her painful, broken story had been written in a book, and warned me that it was bad, really bad.  I praised her for her courage to be vulnerable in sharing her "really bad" story.

I had no idea.

I ordered the book, not only because I wanted to know her better, but also because it seemed like a great resource to use with women in my church.  It arrived on a Friday evening.  UPS.  The kids hoped that the package on the doorstep was their new Xbox game.  They were disappointed that inside of that box was not a super cool soccer game, and totally unaware that it actaully contained a piece of the heart of Christ sent to his daughter, their mom.

"Mom!  Oh my gosh, Mom!  What happened?  What's the matter?"  one child came running.  I didn't realize I had gasped and started to cry in the kitchen as I read.  I apologized and explained that nothing bad had happened; I was only reading a sad story in a book.  They are used to me crying over sad books, meaningful movies... typical. The explanation sufficed.

I moved to the basement, and the sobs came uncontrollably.  Abortion. I had not anticipated that one.  Twins that required not one abortion, but two.  The second one late term. She was so young then, and there were other "bad" things, but those were expected.  It was the abortions which happened a decade ago that made my heart literally hurt inside of my chest.  Close friends of mine have had abortions.  I've watched at least one walk through its pain and then journey into Christ's healing.  It took years. When he took her, her dad said it would only hurt like a paper cut, really bad at first, but then insignificantly later. He was wrong.  She has a charm bracelet with the names of the one aborted, and then one miscarried. Now she has four healthy, grown children. Forgiveness. Mercy.  Redemption.  Beautiful.

This one seemed so close, though.

Then flooding into my heart and mind came this...

"Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool."
Isaiah 1:18

and then David's words...

"Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
Psalm 51:7

Oh, God!  The Passover!  The crimson Passover!  And the snow that I asked for! The pure, white, delightful snow!  She was playing. in. the. SNOW.  Playing!  Forgiven. Free.  And that dress. That snow white dress that she wore at the beach. Now the sobs turned into all out weeping.  The Old Testament Bible readings.  The silly weather prayer requests.  They were gifts for me, preparation for this moment.  You are so good to me.  You are so faithful to show this "good girl" the extent of your love and grace to others, so that my prayer to understand my equal need will be accomplished.  I long to know you in your extravagant grace and forgiveness, and you answer that prayer so readily.  "for there is no distinction, for all have sinned..." {Romans 3:22-23}

And as is repeated in the Passover liturgy..."It would have been enough...It would have been enough..."  Yes, that experience was more than enough, but the story doesn't end there.

Exactly nine days later, nine days after I wept over her "bad" past, he sends a photo text message. It's of a home pregnancy test.  It's positive.

Oh my! You must just really enjoy delighting me with your boundless grace, Lord.  A baby!?  She's going to have a baby!  He's going to be a Daddy.

And then as if it had been settled before the foundation of the earth, written in the days of His book before one of them came to be, I was filling in birthdays on my new 2013 calendar later that same afternoon ~ the baby news day.  When I got to his birthday month, I noticed that it already had something printed by the manufacturer in the square that marked his special day, an annual and nationally recognized holiday.


Of course.

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