**Updated with link to the Children’s Bible…***

As you can all imagine, the last week or so has been a tangled mess of emotions, and with the combination of an incredible Good Friday message and a beautiful Easter, I feel more peace than I have in awhile.

The Lord spoke to me the other night as I was reading the girls the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. I talk about this Children’s Bible often because I really think it has impacted them.  They recall the most beautiful stories in scripture effortlessly, and when I read it I understand why.  In fact, part of the way through my reading, I literally stopped mid-sentence and had to compose myself because the words were breathtaking.  Here is an excerpt from the Bible…
They nailed Jesus to the cross.

“Father, forgive them, ” Jesus gasped. “They don’t understand what they are doing.”

“You say you have come to rescue us!” people shouted. “But you can’t even rescue yourself!”

But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued himself.  A legion of angels would have flown to his side-if he’d called.

“If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!” they said.

And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed the little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5000 people.

But Jesus stayed.

You see, they didn’t understand. It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there.

It was love.

For some reason, I hadn’t quite thought it through in those terms, and I was rendered speechless by the infinite power that was denied for the sake of love.
It is, for me, one of the simplest and most powerful ways to present the Gospel, even stretching into our lives today.
“Angie, why do you choose to be crucified with Christ? You have the choice to abandon it all…just walk away and say that this whole thing is too hard.  You need a break. You aren’t strong enough to feel the scabs forming over and the taste of blood in your mouth…”

Suddenly it was very clear to me that it has never been the nails that held me here.
It has been love.
Deep, desperate, longing love for the One Who was mocked on my behalf. And worse yet, I have been that voice at times in my life. 
And this year, I realized that since the day I first heard His name, I had two choices.
Be crucified with Him, or climb down.
I have felt the sting of death deeply, for the first time in my life, and there was never the option to walk away. Not because I couldn’t, but rather, because I was blessed in the most unexpected way to invite the nails that held me to Him. 
“Sweet child. The nails are not enough to hold you here. You can only live the life I am calling you to through the love I have given you. The love which now has taken up residence in your very being, and makes the wounds bearable…”

He beckons us to nestle deep into the brokenness and find inexplicable comfort. He woos us to touch His bleeding side so we will know that we are not alone. 
I can tell you that I have done this, and I have been rescued from a pit so deep I could not fathom a way out of it. You may be down there right now, begging for mercy and for relief.  I understand, and I hurt for you, but this year, I have learned about a part of myself I didn’t know existed, and as crazy as it sounds, I want you to think about it and see if it makes any sense to you.
We who are followers of the King must daily wake up and look in the mirror, seeing our reflection with a crown of thorns balanced on our heads. We must feel the burden of the cross at different points in our life, and with the power of Christ Himself, we will look solemnly back at ourselves and say, “I am choosing to bear the crown because I cannot live without the love…”

That’s easy to say, isn’t it?  Will you trust me enough to try it? Tell Him, the One who knows your deepest fears and most secret desperation, that you are choosing the thorns. Everyday.
And one day, not so far from now, I believe we will be made complete, and pain will cease completely.
Oh, Lord, come quickly.
But until then, make your life an offering, and allow the hands of the Father to carry You through what you think is impossible.
I assure you that through it, He will show You His boundless, freeing love, which allows us the strength to make it another day.
And another day.
And then, one glorious day, He will call for us.
I can’t prove it to you, but I know it deep, deep within myself.
The stone has been moved.
He is Risen.
And I love Him, even in the excruciating pain I feel. Honestly, if you are trying to pursue relationship out of forced conviction, you will miss out on the glory of falling in love with the Maker of your soul. There is such a difference between religion and relationship. I could not have survived without the latter, I assure you.
Because, you see, the thing about the nails in this life is that they are temporary. We choose to bear them because we know that we will lay our crowns at His feet in the blink of an eye. We will join Him for eternity, and will worship the One Who was scarred on our behalf.
I am praying for each of you as you arise tomorrow morning. I am praying that you will see the crown of thorns as a promise. Yes, it is painful, and yes, sometimes we struggle under the weight of it, but no, it will not defeat us. 
And that is a promise I needed to remember as I celebrated what would have been Audrey’s First Birthday.  It isn’t something superhuman or overly spiritual, just the daily remembrance of a life lived out off the depths of love.
We praise Your name, Lord. For You are Who You say You are.
And that is enough.