Good Friday is the rather strange title we give to the day, in the Christian year, when we remember Christ's death. It is a part of the Holy Week story. It's not the part we most want to think about, but it is a necessary part of our spiritual (and mental health) journey. I once heard someone say, "Everyone wants to be resurrected, but no one wants to die." But for Jesus, as well as us, death is required if the resurrection is to become a reality.
The spiritual guide and devotional writer, Ruth Haley Barton, has made the observation that in striving to deal with dysfunctional parts of our life, it is often not so much about "over coming" or "finding victory" as it is about simply, "letting go." I personally find this insight to be profound. When I try so hard to struggle with sin and a variety of dysfunctions in my life (habits, attitudes, addictive tendencies, etc.) I often find myself on the loosing side of the battle. But when I simply "let go" of the fight and allow God to do the fighting for me I find that a path of victory is often before me. For me, and I know for countless others as well, I find that the first step to victory is simply learning to die to the forces that bind me. Paul says it like this: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. - because anyone who has died has been set free from sin." (Romans 6:6-7, TNIV)
So the question is, as we make this Holy Week journey to Good Friday: What do I need to die to? For me, I need to die to trying to "figure out the past." "What if's? and "only if's?" can haunt us and keep our focus on "what might have been" instead of the wonderful blessings we truly enjoy. For me, I need to die to the "tendency of comparisons." I find that when I compare myself to others the only outcomes possible are either pride (I'm better than someone else) or discouragement (I'm not as good as someone else.) Neither of these outcomes are especially helpful! For me, I need to die to "anxiety about the future. I need to learn to trust that my life is fully in God's hands. As God has wonderfully cared for me in the past, so will He continue to provide for me in the future. In short, I need to learn to let the voice of temptation to go in one ear and out of the other. Instead of fighting against all of the tempting notions and thoughts that confront me, I simply need to learn to "let go!"
Good Friday is a great day to die. As we remember Christ's death we need also to nail the broken parts of our life to the cross. As St Francis shared in prayer so many years ago, "it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that are born to eternal life." I pray for all of us that dying to dysfunction will be a part of our Holy Week Journey.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.