Holy Week is here and I find myself walking more slowly and feeling more deeply. The world around me hasn’t acknowledged the significance of these trying days we are meant to go through before getting to the glorious promise of Easter.
No one has mentioned Maundy Thursday or even Good Friday. No one is speaking of the cross that Jesus faced for us. No one is stopping to reflect and ask a question I find myself asking: “Am I really living as someone who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ?”
Am I living a life of grace and thanks?
Am I living?
The world around me is acting as if this week is business as usual. Nothing is different. Nothing is changing. Nothing is gained. Nothing is lost.
Yet from where I sit, it seems all this nothingness mingles with a lot of empty busyness.
Work, life, petty annoyances, irksome worries, decisions as to what to have for dinner mixed with trips to the store for more jelly beans for Easter Sunday and then another load of laundry thrown into the washing machine—all create an alternate universe that fools us into thinking we are getting somewhere.
It fools us into thinking we are living.
I went for a walk tonight on the rail trail behind my old little house in the valley. I left my sweet Bernese Mountain dog, Sofie, behind for the warm weather here in Vermont has made the trail a hotbed for pesky ticks. Sofie’s thick black fur seems to be a magnet for them.
And so, I walked a lonely walk without my four-legged friend.
The night seemed so quiet without her. It’s funny how you get used to another presence with you on a well-worn path. Since I didn’t have a bumbling dog occupying my attention, I could notice little details on the path.
I noticed hoof prints in the dirt.
The impressions were deep and distinct. I took note of how far down the path they went and decided to follow them, being very careful not to step on them as I didn’t want to erase their presence from the path.
I walked alongside them and thought of the hoof prints the donkey left on the path as it carried Jesus into Jerusalem on the day we observe as Palm Sunday.
Jerusalem. The holy city. The place where Jesus’ triumphal entry would spiral downward quickly to death on cross in just a few short days. There would be an altercation in the temple. Some tables overthrown.
Then the Passover meal shared with friends in an upper room. Feet would be washed. A new mandate given to love one another.
Then a betrayal by a friend followed by an anguished, seemingly unanswered prayer for trouble to be averted, capped off with an arrest. A trial, a guilty as charged edict (guilty of what, being the King of Jews?) and then crucifixion. Tears and wailing by the faithful few, emphasis on few, who stayed with Jesus at Golgotha.
And then that horrible day after someone dies. You might know what I am talking about. That first day without your beloved when you don’t even feel your tears because you are just so numb with shock and grief. You can’t breathe. You can’t think. You can’t imagine life without…
Then something surprising happens.
Amidst unfathomable loss, hope breaks through with the first rays of dawn, revealing an empty tomb and, with it, the promise that death never has the last word. Never. Jesus stands there extending a nail scarred hand to the brokenhearted and offers life anew, life again.
I stooped down and gently traced the hoof print in the dirt. As I did, the birds ceased their singing. The peepers hushed their peeping. I traced it over and over and thought about this week. A week I walk more slowly and feel more deeply.
We don’t get to the glory of Easter until we trod the lonely path with our Savior.
We don’t get to grace unless we dare to follow the hoof prints leading us into Jerusalem.
We don’t truly live as one who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ until we decide to replace all the nothingness filled with plenty of busyness with the commitment to stand at the foot of the cross.
We need to weep—really weep—for the darkness in ourselves that sought to extinguish a light so brilliant, we feared it.
We need to remember that we don’t get very far walking on paths we decide to walk on.
We must follow Jesus’ path. All the way.
Hoof prints…they were left in the dirt so many years ago by a humble animal who carried salvation on its back. Many probably didn’t even notice where the hoof prints led. And those who did? Did they follow?