The Good Friday Voice


I bawled my eyes out a couple days ago on the phone with my sister. I knew I needed to tell someone about the strange mix of happiness and sadness that was working its way all throughout my heart since my counseling session on Monday. I was awed again at the kindness of God toward me, to want more for me than I want for myself.

Having tasted freedom, I had already begun to deny, rationalize, and minimize the seriousness of the bondage I've been trying to find release from. I noticed this change of heart in the few days leading up to Easter Sunday. I heard a voice telling me that I should not exercise on Good Friday, which would have been an exercise day for me (according to the boundaries set up with my counselor's help). This voice confused me and made me want to rebel. I didn't know if it was God, or if it was me, or if it was neither of us. The voice told me I should be willing to give up what I wanted to identify more fully with Jesus giving up what He wanted.

But I ignored the voice because I couldn't identify it and didn't have the time or energy to try and figure it out. I just pushed it down and walked it off. Yet it left me feeling bad the rest of the weekend, this voice with no name. This voice is the same voice from childhood who told me often that I'd better do (or not do) such-and-such because those are the right things to do (or not do).

I began to recite for my counselor this scenario from Good Friday and went on to tell how I sometimes get to a point, with food, with exercise, even with my schedule, where I just can't take it anymore. When I decide I'm done with some voice demanding I do or don't do something, what eventually happens is that I assume a "screw this" attitude, an "I'm gonna do whatever I want" stance. So I go for my walk or run, without regard for what might have been, or I eat or don't eat, or I decide I won't cook or clean or care. I just lay that heavy burden of a backpack down for a day or two, until....I pick it up again.

I pick it up again and take it on again and say "what backpack?" And I wear it for ages and live with the pain in a box and forget that this thing I hold in my right hand is a lie. I think, "Isn't 30 minutes of exercise a day good for a person?" I get mad because someone says I can't, so I do it anyway. But every week, when I sit on that chair in my couselor's office, I get the privilege to return to God in the flesh and hear someone speak to me above the noise.

And this time, she said that I needed to name the Good Friday voice, the "good girl" voice of my childhood. So we drew a circle on a piece of paper to symbolize this voice. After a bit of reflection and guidance, we named it the "demanding, right way" voice, as in there is a right way for everything and you'd better not have regrets. The counselor further described it as the "have to" voice, the condemning pressurized voice, the cloud of confusion, the vague sense of never enough, where shame and guilt live. Into the circle went these notations, along with the word LEGALISM.

What happens when I can't take the pressure anymore is that I jump ship and move from listening to the "demanding, right way" voice to obeying the "screw this, I'll do whatever I want" voice instead. This is the rebel in me who wants license and demands it. The counselor said it's in this second circle that a pseudo-freedom is found. There are morsels of truth. I don't have to live like this and There's no joy in this are certainly true things to think when I'm living in the "demanding, right way" circle. But it is Satan's voice that tells me that the better way than legalism is the way of LAWLESSNESS.

I feel a little bit free when I throw down my heavy burden from time to time and do what I want, except I never am free to NOT pick it back up. I always put that backpack back on. It's a pendulum of back and forth from legalism to license/lawlessness. Pick it up, put it down, pick it up, put it down.

But there is a third voice which calls my name, a third circle in the diagram. It's the voice of Jesus standing at the door knocking (Revelation 3:20). It's a voice of gracious permission to grow and move. It's a voice of clarity, because God's voice always is. It's the authentic release from the "demanding, right way" voice and all the pressure associated with it. The counselor called it a  LOVING INVITATION. I've been on a quest since Monday to come up with a name of my own for this voice (there is something important about me naming it), and so far the word "gentle" is all I've got.

I've been considering this good and true voice, how it might sound, how I might feel the loving invitation when it comes. It is the spring sunshine that draws me outside to sit and bathe in its warmth. It is the words of Nancy Kelly, who says "Keep cutting back until there is peace." It is a pull to returning, rest, quietness, and trust as Isaiah 30:15 says.

Though I have not found the perfect name, I have found a few Scriptures this week to paint a picture of the voice in the third circle.

"Peace, be still," Jesus said to the storm.

In another place, he said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

"The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out....the sheep follow him, for they know his voice."

"Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you...He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. 'You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, "Be gone!"'"

My God has a voice that speaks my name. I do not know the voice well, but it came to me in a way I could not deny or ignore on Tuesday. And when it came, so did the tears.

God's voice came in an email from someone I admire and respect, someone who has been given to me at this stage of my life and to whom I've been given.

The voice said this, What I need you to hear is that you are very precious, Ginger. You are a joy and bright spot...and I feel so honored to be invited into the deep places of your soul....You are so easy to love, Ginger.

Rarely has such a kind word been spoken into my life, and rarely have I felt I was hearing God's voice so strongly. What other voice can compare to this voice of acceptance and release? And what else is there but to run to a God like that?