Life is Dark & Tragic, But That's Not The Whole Story: This Scattered Pilgrim's Search for Redemption
The world we live in can be a dark place. Often, it feels like darkness overwhelms us and despair takes over. There's a moment of darkness when Jesus is nailed to a cross and, to his followers, all hope is lost.
We are scattered pilgrims stumbling, at best, through life in the shadow of that cross.
"...exiles scattered throughout the provinces..." - Peter, the Apostle,1 Peter 1:1
From The Garden to the Cross
I've held off on setting goals for a few years as my primary objective is to finish this book project that never seems to end. Have you ever spent much longer on a creative project than you expected?
It's been over 3 years that I've been working on my book; From the Garden to the Cross: How Jesus' Harrowing Journey Restores Eternal Living Today
It's turned out, that it's not only a process of writing a book, but also a process of growth. One does not simply write a book on the Passion of Jesus and not be changed!
But now, I'm at the tail end of the stage where I'm integrating the final notes and quotes I've collected into the book. Many of these quotes are ones I've been sharing (and will share) on Facebook. I probably had over 800+ of these and now down to 9.
Once I'm done with this stage, I'll be 80% finished, and in the red zone. Then, I'll need to work through the draft to remove fragmentation, make the incoherent pieces coherent, and fill in any remaining gaps. I very much enjoy this part of the process, so I suspect I'll be more motivated when working on it than I was during the last stage, which was unexpectedly difficult.
So, what's this book all about?
The Core of the Book: Finishing Well + Disappointment
Where did this book come from?
The first catalyzing idea came from the question, What does it mean to finish well?
This question came to mind during a difficult transitional season. During it, I thought about Jesus saying, It Is Finished, while on the cross. It was a powerful idea, and one I'd come back to after I went through a difficult season of shutting down my company.
The second catalyzing idea was my disappointment in the church, during 2020 and beyond. My hope for the church during this era was inspired by the early Christians in Rome. And yet, when I looked around modern Christians, they were acting more like ancient Romans and less like the early Christians. Oh how far we had fallen, including myself.
2020 was a wild year, and people's disappointments and challenges differed for everyone. In speaking with someone recently, the lesson learned and disappointment for them was about how many dividing wedges were created and used in our society during that year. It's a season we all share but look at it in different ways.
I hope that the book helps us go back to those moments, perhaps in 2020, or perhaps at some other time of disappointment and pain. We want to flee the pain, but healing often requires we face it.
When the sands beneath our feet have shifted, and now when we look down, we're standing in a pit of snakes, what do we do?
How do we finish well? And can we get grounded in a faith that transcends the darkness and tragedy we face?
As part of this project, I've chosen to look where I don't want to look. I wanted an unshakable faith that could stare at evil and hell and not tremble before it.
In the Hebrew scriptures, there's the famous story of David and Goliath. All of Israel trembled at the giant before them. Yet David, a young scrawny boy, had faith in the One True God, and Goliath was nothing compared to Him.
Jesus embodies this power at the cross and gives us the story of unshakable faith.
Perspective: Jesus & The Cross
What does Jesus at the Cross have to tell us about these things? That's another question explored throughout the book.
For me, part of the expectation of the church now came from the church in the past. I think God wanted to use that dynamic to show me, what was underneath these layers. An electric car with a charge can drive, but when that battery dies, the car dies... so too is the church... or myself... God is the power source. But I also have to want that power source to receive it. Some people run out of power and switch to an alternative power of bitterness and resentment. The best of them lean into spite against suffering and death.
For me, culminating in 2020, there was an ever-increasing expectation and hope and then disappointment in the church. In light of Christianity's tainted history, the disappointment and failure were rather mild, but it was enough of a bubble burst to want to go down the road of a deeper faith.
There are several books I read because I wanted to know how the church was involved in some of the worst human-caused catastrophes. I wanted a faith that could stand in that reality and move forward in strength. I wanted to see these dynamics and situations through the eyes of Jesus on the cross.
It revealed things to me about the past, but also the present. My contempt is something that has surfaced in my journey, among other things. But, they are all an opportunity for God to show up in my life and through my life. And that's a journey I invite you to join.
How Does The Book Begin?
The early pages of my book are a bridge story to the story of Jesus. And hopefully, it's a bridge story for the reader to bridge their story to His.
After I introduce this bridge at the beginning of the book, we then zoom out to the larger narrative of the Bible. Once we get the context of the larger narrative, we then zoom back into the garden of Gethsemane where we talk through each part of the passion experience to when Jesus is dead on the cross (not the end of the story!). Finally, we then take a step back and explore the farewell discourse, which is the last thing Jesus said before the passion experience. We look through those words through the passion horrors (while also knowing the resurrection to come).
We modern Christians look through the story of Jesus knowing the resurrection happened and skirting over the passion story to the positive ending we all want and hope for. But for the disciples living this out in real-time, their entire hopes and dreams died on that cross and they did not expect anything new to emerge from that dark place. During times in our lives, we are like them, facing insurmountable tragedy.
While we know the ending, we can choose to sit in the middle of the story, because without it, the ending can be confusing to us. And that is more true than ever when we face the darkness directly.
Death & Despair Brought Home
I received an unexpected text from a news reporter in New York this past weekend. She was asking about Olga Kirshenbaum, an acquaintance I met through the Freelancer's Union. Olga and I reached out to each other afterward. She had me on her podcast and I interviewed her on my podcast. It was a great new intersection of ideas and sharing of life. We stayed in touch from time to time. I wrote Olga the following recommendation on Linkedin.
Hope: The Darkness Means The Story Is Not Over
"We thought we'd never see the sun through the dark skies (through the dark skies)" - Lauren Daigle
As many times as I've read and heard the crucifixion story, there are so many details that I forgot or didn't fully internalize. One of these moments was when Jesus was hanging on the cross, and there were three hours of darkness. This seems like an obvious connection to the darkness over Egypt when God liberated Israel from Pharoah.
In writing this book, I've gone on a journey and I'm now sharing that journey with others. Unfortunately, the darkness is a part of the journey. It's darkness inside of me and in the world we inhabit. This darkness (evil and human cruelty individually and at scale) isn't new to me, but learning about the darkness may be new to you. Everything I've learned was once new to me, but not new to God.
The darkness does exist. Thankfully, God sees it all and is not surprised by it. Any darkness we're able to see is because of the grace of God. Otherwise, we would most likely choose not to see it, especially if we have power. But, hopefully, there is something on the other side.
“God puts the brightest things in life on the other side of darkness. So much so, I didn’t really start to see until I descended into the dark. “ - Will Smith, Welcome to Earth, Episode 2: Descent Into Darkness
My book project is part of this journey through darkness. The two catalysts for writing the book were understanding what Jesus meant by "It is Finished" and having a faith that could transcend the darkness that permeates not just the world, but the church as well. That's where Jesus on the cross comes into view. And that is the basis of all hope; mine included.
I believe in the redeeming power of truth, and sometimes that means looking at things we don't want to see. That's part of my journey. My confusion, avoidance, abandonment, and destruction.
But, while there is darkness, my constant reminder throughout the book is how amazing God is, even through the darkness. Without him, there is nothing but the darkness. This is a reality too many believe is the full story.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." - King David, Psalm 23:4
The hope of the cross is not canceled out in the darkness. Because Jesus overcame death, we have nothing to fear, and death no longer holds a grip over us. That is the good news. The darkness you face, that I face, that we all face; it has all been overcome. It is finished.
Hell (the evil inside of us coming out of us) is a scary thing. When it comes to us, even when we have hope, it's overwhelming and terrifying. That's also where Jesus' example inspires us while His spirit powers us. When we face the darkness, because of our hope, it changes us. It's changed me. Grace is God's power.
Before the book begins, I share the following note, that I believe encapsulates the dynamic I've described above.
I can write this book, dive into the darkness of the abyss, and string out my own sin and failure because of the grace of God through His atoning power on the cross.His REAL gift of grace gives me the safety of His righteousness to see myself as I really am and still be accepted, loved, and rescued. No matter how much evil and brokenness I uncover, He still chose to forgive me, pay my debt, and bring me back into the community of God.And that frees me to humbly and openly see as deep and dark and vast as necessary to discover the lengths He went to save you and me; to discover the righteousness He works out in us.May God give you an abundance of grace as you read the following pages; my personal exploration and wrestling with God about the cross; an unfathomable allowance for an unworthy recipient.- Jason
I'm sharing my journey online and in this book. I'm not here to simply tell you what to believe. I'm here to tell you the story I lived. And perhaps it's also a story God can use in your life.
"If it's not good, then it's not over." - Lauren Daigle
- Created on .
- Last updated on .