An “It is finished” Kind of Life

Today is Good Friday.

Since my earliest memories of my Catholic upbringing, Good Friday has always been a day of a somber experience.

In my catechism training in parochial school, the crucifix was always present, both visually and symbolically. It wasn’t just a wooden cross that hung above the blackboard; it was the crucifix that held the Suffering Servant. We were never able to get that far away from the truth that Jesus, God Himself, died horrendously as the atoning sacrifice for all mankind, including my young, elementary-aged self. As I looked upon those crucifixes, I felt the conviction of my mistakes and sin. So I began trying from a young age very hard to be very good. I wanted to somehow “payback” my role in Jesus’ suffering. I tried to show my gratitude for what He endured for me by being polite, respectful to my parents, sharing, doing my homework, and staying away from “bad” things. Yet no matter how good I tried to be, there was this undercurrent of continual guilt that stayed with me.

One day, at a church camp, when I was 13, my counselor told me about Jesus and what He did for me. Of course, I was very familiar with the story, until she told me His suffering and death wasn’t just a payment for my sin, but actually the greatest act of love….for me. Yes, I knew God loved me. But I learned that the purpose of the cross wasn’t ever supposed to become MY never-ending cross of guilt to bear. It was a gift of His radical love. When Jesus uttered His final words, “It is finished”, as blood flowed down His scarred face, He was saying, “It is done. No more. You can NEVER repay the weight of sin back to a Holy God. Back to Me. Stop trying to. Stop trying with your seemingly good deeds; your effort to resist any bad thoughts; carrying around your guilt like a cross; afraid to live abundantly in joy because of it. You are motivated not by love for Me but because you feel ashamed, dirty, and bad. Stop. It is finished. Because I love you, I have paid the price for all your past, present and future wrongdoings. Because I love you.”

That truth radically changed my relationship with Jesus. And although I still struggle with shame, Jesus daily invites me (and you) back to Himself through nail pierced arms of love.

So how am I (we) to respond to a love like that? Romans 8:13b tells us to “put to death the deeds of the body..”, meaning the behaviors and habits that are not of Him; the act of our lives that do not reflect the fruits of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 “love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” If we live daily surrendered to His Spirit, these are the deeds that will grow increasingly in and through us. Anything in opposition to these is not of God and we are to die to them. Remove them and not allow ourselves to be controlled by them.

In fact, it means living like I was before when I was wanting to please God with my life. However, instead of being motivated by an oppressive guilt and somehow repay what Jesus did for me, I am rather to love Him back and motivated by gratitude, let my life be a reflection of Him.

There is no greater compliment I feel than when my kids mimic or say they want to be like me, in some way. I imagine it’s the same with our Heavenly Father. That out of our love for Him, we strive to let our lives look more and more like Him each day.

Jesus invites us to an “It is finished.” kind of life. The debt has been paid in full. So, therefore, go and live rightly and lovingly for Him.

It is our greatest compliment back to Him.

Mary Quillin is one of our Refres{her} bloggers. She is a city-girl-turned-country-girl in her new life in North Dakota. Mary has been married to her hubby for 16 years and has 3 wonderfully, different kids who have begun their teen years (and she would appreciate all the prayers as possible on that note). After many years in full-time ministry, Mary is learning how to show up and daily discover the journey of being available for whatever Jesus leads her to. She spends her days trying to build a welcoming shabby chic home in the heartland of North Dakota while learning to write and run.