“This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:9-10)
A few weeks ago, I heard someone say, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” I’d never heard that quote before, and it really stuck with me. I’ve had my own dust-ups with fear, plenty of times. I’ve known panic. I know what it feels like to wake up in a cold sweat in the wee hours, terrified. I have turned away from fear too, denying it, as if denial could make the thing I feared go away. I don’t talk about my fears very much because I don’t like to breathe more life into them than they have already. Besides, they come and go, depending on whatever seems to be spinning out of control.
Years ago, I became good friends with a fellow I worked with. He was older than me and the son of a Pentecostal preacher, so we had some things in common in our church experiences. One night after supper in Columbus, Nebraska—we were working there—we had a long conversation about God. “Don’t get too close to Him, Lisa,” my friend said. “He always takes more than He gives.” I was an earnest and enthusiastic Christian, and I’m sure my friend—speaking from his own years of trying to live with religion—only wanted to prepare me for the time when my rose-colored perspective of God would be slapped down by reality.
I don’t think my friend was alone in his point of view about God. I think a lot of people feel it’s best to avoid Him. And their reasons are probably as varied as they are. Some people look around this twisted, callous world and think, Why would I have anything to do with a God who’s responsible for all this suffering? Or if He isn’t responsible for it, at least He permits it to happen. Other people are brokenhearted, having endured sudden catastrophes or slow-moving curses that destroyed persons or things they cherished. They might say, “Thanks a lot, God. For nothing.”
But I had a different view of God, even way back then, when my friend and I talked about Him. God had rescued me, mostly from myself, and I was as devoted as a frightened puppy who’s finally been welcomed into a forever home. I had already found the passage from Isaiah 54 quoted above, and I had begun to believe that the one thing I could count on—indeed, the only thing I could count on—was God’s unfailing love for me, no matter what. No matter me.
But even more important, I began to believe in another realm—in another reality, if you want to put it that way. A world as different from earth as Oz is from Kansas. And like Oz, which existed on the other side of the rainbow, a symbol of God’s covenant of peace, this other reality—the Kingdom of Heaven—exists on the other side of a different covenant of peace: the cross of Christ.
Everything I’ve ever wanted is on the other side of Jesus’s cross. When I was a new Christian, I found a passage in Paul’s letter to the Galatians that seemed to have been written to me, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” I first read those words almost half a century ago, and they mean even more to me now than they did then, when they were a lifeline to a girl who could not escape herself.
Everything I’ve ever wanted is in Jesus. He gave me a new heart and a new mind. He gave me courage. But most of all, He gave me a home: the Kingdom of Heaven. My new reality on the resurrection side of the cross is as different from this twisted, callous world as Oz was from Kansas. It’s as different as life is from death. There’s no going back.
I’m not alone in my point of view either. My heart swells every time I see other believers worshiping with abandon, lost in His love. Like in this video: The Blessing with Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. If you’ve watched worshipers and wondered where they go when they close their eyes and turn their faces skyward, when they raise their hands and voices, I can answer that question. They’ve gone to the Kingdom of Heaven, the realm of the Spirit, where dull, drab earth falls away. They are renewed there, and they come back refreshed and reminded that they don’t belong to this world. They are just passing through.
So, happy Good Friday. Go in peace. Be blessed. And I’ll see you on the other side.