Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, April 10, 2009

a Braveheart for Good Friday


Some believers consider Braveheart, the epic 13th century story of William Wallace, a proud and glorious hero to some Scots, to be a kind of quintessential Christian film. I wouldn't be so quick to render a halo, but Wallace's incredible daring, and his dedication, is powerfully inspiring. Why he remains a hero is no mystery: he befriended the lowly by waging a unrelenting guerilla war against the occupying Brits. He showed no mercy to those who deserved none, and, most admirably, championed freedom. He was a man of principal.

All of that's in the name, really. If you've not seen the movie, you don't need to--the title says it all, Braveheart.

The two blockbusters Mel Gibson created offer completely different historial characters. On one hand, Braveheart, William Wallace, a bloody hero and freedom fighter; and on the other, his Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, who was just as principled, but very much the Prince of Peace.

I thought of Braveheart this morning, Good Friday, because of one haunting metaphor David uses in Psalm 22:14: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me." His intimate description of vanquished body parts goes on for another verse, but the line that stops me that heart of wax. "I am poured like water?"--sure. I think I've been there, not at the level of my savior, but I know that one, thin as gruel. "My bones are out of joint?"--a whole-body ache, yep, as if the county's new road grader just leveled me for the eleventy-seventh time.

But a heart of wax? The KJV goes on to say that it's melted; that helps a little, but still the image doesn't communicate as viscerally as the others: "my heart has turned to wax."

Psalm 22 is the psalm of the day, it seems--today, Good Friday. Last Sunday, our preacher made the claim that when Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" he's not only quoting Psalm 22, but he's referencing the entire poem, the whole story told therein. Anyone who knows 22 can't help feel the Twilight-Zone-ish resemblance between what David feels and Christ experienced. How on earth could David have so meticulously plotted out the Messiah's own crucifixion? I don't know, but somehow he did--some kind of vision, I assume.

William Wallace is a man whose heart never once turned to wax. Braveheart never winced, never lost courage, never stopped fighting, never doubted himself or his cause. Braveheart skinned his foes once he'd killed them. Braveheart waged war until the very last moment of his life, when he was tortured and died. Braveheart cared not a fig for personal gain and fiercely led his rebels into victories they should not have won. Braveheart died for his people.

"My heart has turned to wax" is an utterance from the dark other side of human experience, or so it seems to me. And if our pastor is right, then that's exactly what Christ felt; he was quoting the line, after all. Hanging from a tree, he had no heart at all. It had turned to wax.

The great danger of immense human suffering is probably not the fatal loss of blood but the fatal loss of faith, the decided conviction that God himself has left the building. Titanic burdens make us "lose heart," as we might say, or turn it to stone--or wax. When it's impossible to "take heart," there's no heart there anymore. Hence, no more life in me. My heart has turned to wax.

What I need to remember today, Good Friday, is that's what happened to Jesus Christ. His heart turned to wax under the burden of human sin, my sin.

In a raw and tortured way, he became a divine Braveheart by becoming, horribly, no Braveheart at all.

My savior's very heart turned to wax, for my sake.

1 comment:

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

I just talked about that Psalm today with a friend--a timely and fantastic post.