A Poem for Lent / by Chris Pollock

Sarah McDonald

During Lent we have asked the artists among us to help us experience the full meaning and emotion of this season. Each week we have been focusing on Love's Last Words -- the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. Poet Sarah McDonald wrote this poem as a reflection on Matthew 27.46: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"). -Matthew 27:46

When I was small,
my favorite superhero was God.
On Sundays, we read stories
about a God
who parted the Red Sea
so the Israelites could be free
and then let the water come
crashing down on their oppressors.
I thought God was all the things
a hero is supposed to be,
a god who flies through the sky,
zapping my enemies
with his all-powerful laser eyes,
then zooming toward me
to lift me up and take me to get ice cream.
But that is not how God works.

As I got older,
loving God became my favorite video game.
Every time I did something good,
like helping with chores
or giving to the poor,
or not waking my sister while she snored,
I earned Heaven points.
If I did something bad,
like stealing my sister’s barbies,
I lost Heaven points,
but
if I did something really good,
like being honest about stealing
my sister’s barbies,
I leveled up,
one step closer to Heaven,
one step further from Hell.
But that isn’t how God works either.

When I grew up,
I found myself in the eye of a storm,
the worst behind me
yet still more ahead,
battered and bruised,
and never had I been so confused in my life.
So I began to cry out to God.
“Where have you been?”
I demanded.
“Where is the superhero
that I have worshipped since I was small?
I have tons of Heaven points that I earned
from doing good things!
I’m a good person,
so why did you let this happen?”

A still, small voice,
so quiet that I would not have heard it
if I hadn’t been listening,
said to me,
“Child, I am here.”
And I wept.

The beauty of the God we love
is not in the almighty obliteration of our enemies.
If it was, we would be the enemies of God,
and he would strike us down.
The beauty of his grace
is not in the measurement of our deeds.
If it was, we would never be good enough.
The beauty of the God we love
is in the moment when you’re surrounded by enemies,
and he sits beside you.
The beauty of his grace
is in the times when you don’t measure up,
not even close,
and he still says you’re worth saving.
The wonder of the gospel
is not in that God did things
the way we imagine they should be done.
It is in that God did something better.