It’s a cold, dark morning on the Winterhalter ranch. Every breath is visibly seen before me in a cloud of mist as I make my way to the barn shivering more violently every step I take away from the warm comfort of our house. My dad is away, high up on a mountain range hunting an animal that in my dreams I believe is a wild beast he will battle and bring home so that I might enjoy it as pepperoni sticks and jerky.
Because he is away I have been entrusted with the duties of making sure our livestock are fed before I leave for school.
Winter has come early, an oddity for the Northwest, where these temperatures are usually reserved for January and February if at all. The grass has been clothed in a cape of white frost and crunches beneath my feet. Only a few more steps and I’ll be safely inside the barn where darkness will be defeated by the few lights sporadically placed throughout this dungy building. While dim they push back the fear that something might be out there, something in the darkness. Possibly a beast that is longing to become jerky.
I impale two bales of hay with my dad’s hay hooks as I pretend I’m a dreaded, pirate captain fighting on the deck of my majestic ship. My dad rarely lets me touch his hay hooks, these massive rods of iron, that look like enormous nails that have been bent with purpose. Last year he finally gave me permission to use a set of hay hooks as we put in the summer harvest. They were a smaller pair, only nine inches in length, but now, gripped firmly in my hands, I held my father’s hay hooks. These were double the size at eighteen inches in length, a true weapon for a dreaded pirate captain or a farm boy looking to hurt himself.
The bales of hay lay limp behind me as I drug them from the hay loft to the feeding trough. I slash the two strings that hold each bale together as they spill forth their individual flakes that will soon be ravaged by the beasts I begin to call for their morning feast. The beasts thunder into the feeding area, fighting for the best positions where they know the hay will be the thickest. In a matter of moments the hay has been commingled with snot and drool. What was once crisp and fresh has become soggy and spoiled. As I look closer, astonished at the brutish nature of these beasts, my gag reflex is put into action as specks of manure hit me in the face. I try to tell myself the cow has no real control over the weapon that hangs from his backside, while my inner conscious makes war with the tail that just sprayed me as well as its breakfast bowl.
I depart, wiping my face with the sleeve of my father’s Carhartt coat, nauseated that anything would eat in such a trough of disgust.
Now, looking back, I view this memory in a different way. A trough of hay mixed with snot, drool, and manure served as a bed for my Savior. He was born into this muck and filth. The one who created all life, even the beast with a menacing, manure-flicking tail, now dwelt among it, placed in similar trough to serve as his cradle. He grows like all boys do, in strength and in wisdom, but as a man he never leaves the atmosphere of that stable. Unlike myself, who as soon as I could flee, left the rural life of a farm and ran for the city to find fame and fortune, he stayed close to that climate as he ate with the lowly, spoke with the hurting, and healed the broken.
Jesus wasn’t like me. He didn’t find his identity in the praise of people. He didn’t use people to bring comfort to his own, distorted and despairing soul. He didn’t desire the love of man to find his worth.
Jesus wasn’t like me.
I turn my father’s hay hook in my hand, admiring the fading red paint and the wood handle. I am impressed by the length of the iron and the sharpness of the point on each end. As I recall this memory I now see the hay hook bent straight. I see it hammered into the wrists of my Savior. I seem them impale his feet to a cross made of wood. He is raised up high for the world to see. This is what we do with Saviors. This is what we do with Kings.
Jesus, stop serving the poor. Jesus, stop preaching repentance from sin. Jesus, stop healing the sick. Jesus, stop giving hope to the hopeless. Jesus, stop telling me to put my faith in you.
Jesus, just stop!
You’re making me look bad.
Jesus, I don’t have time for that stuff. I have too many other things to do to make me look good and feel good.
And while I was a sinner, He died for me.
Jesus isn’t like me.
Born in a trough of snot and manure.
Nailed to a tree with much of the same.
Jesus isn’t like me.
Praise God, Jesus isn’t like me.
It’s Good Friday and Jesus isn’t like me.
Join us tonight at Mars Hill Church Olympia as we celebrate the life and death of Jesus Christ at two services, 6:00pm and 8:00pm. (There will be no childcare at the 8:00pm service.)
Join us on Easter Sunday at Mars Hill Church Olympia as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at our three services, 8:30am, 10:30am, and 12:30pm. We are throwing a big block party with games, bouncy houses, food, and an Easter egg hunt for kids of all ages in between and after the services.