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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

The Blood and Bandages of Christ

jenmichel@me.com

If you’re connected to me through Facebook or Twitter, you saw yesterday’s posting of a piece I wrote for Her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s blog for women. It is called, “In the Wake of Suicide’s Silence: Why Blame is Never the Answer,” and you can click the link to read it. That piece was born from an article that I read last Saturday in The New York Times. When we put the twins to bed that night (our older three had left with Nana and Papa to spend the week in Ohio), I sat at my computer to make a response. It was a deeply personal answer to the question of blame in cases of suicide, and while it intimately reveals some of the profound and long-secret loss of my own life, it wasn’t all that hard to write.

Of course I don’t mean to say that the relative ease I found in writing the piece reveals how, in some way, I am a fantastic writer. I think it simply means that writing here for so long has been inching me closer to that story. Day 4 of this series on calling, if you have read and remembered it, was a surprising entry on loss: surprising because although I did include loss on my outline for calling, it hadn’t figured towards the top.

Maybe it’s true that our losses, our disappointments, our betrayals – our pain – have more to say about the way God is shaping us and about who He is than most anything else. And rather than try to cauterize the wounds and bandage up the visible hurting of our lives (which we do with all of our I’m fines), maybe it’s true that we are meant to bleed and tell our stories of sadness. Is this where we discover the compassion of God, even the tenderness of the human face?

Loss is an invitation: to find and know the God who has done both the bleeding and the bandaging. Jesus Christ carried a cross from which He was willingly hung and cried the unthinkable: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Voltaire called Christianity “the most absurd and bloody religion,” and he was right on the latter account. Christianity is bloody, and I’m a bloody mess, gaping upon, spilling out life because I wound and am wounded, all my life is leaking out because of sin. That wound had to be cauterized – and was, when the bloodied Messiah died, was buried, and three days later, breathed again and breathed on us (John 20:22).

I am the Resurrection and the Life, said Jesus, a point proved only because He braved the bleeding, laid aside his own grave clothes, and left the darkness of a tomb for the daylight of a new day.

The God who bleeds is the God who bandages.

The God who dies is the God who lives.

"In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time, after a while I have had to look away. And in imagination I have turned instead to the lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we stamp another mark, the cross, which symbolizes divine suffering."
   —John R.W. Stott in "The Cross of Christ"