The God who knows

A reflection for Good Friday

©Marian Free

In the name of God, who shares our joys and triumphs, our sorrows and defeats. Amen.

Several decades ago, in a Bloor Street United Church in Toronto, Canada, a sculpture of a woman arms outstretched as if crucified, was hung below the cross in the chapel.  (Almuth Lutkenhaus’s sculpture Crucified Woman.)

On seeing it, a woman who had experienced sexual abuse as a child wrote the following poem.

This poem, by an anonymous author, was included in a magazine published in conjunction with the Ecumenical Decade 1988-1998, Churches in Solidarity with women: Prayers and Poems, Songs and Stories.

Women in a Changing World, January 1988, no 25, a publication of the World Council of Churches, 150, route de Ferney, 1211 Geneva 20/Switzerland.)

By his wounds you are healed
1 Peter 2:24

O God,
through the image of a woman
crucified on the cross
I understand at last.

For over half my life
I have been ashamed
of the scars I bear.
These scars tell an ugly story,
a common story,
about a girl who is the victim
when a man acts out his fantasies.

In the warmth, peace and sunlight of your presence
I was able to uncurl the tightly clenched fists.
For the first time
I felt your suffering presence with me
in that event.
I have known you as a vulnerable baby,
as a brother, and as a father.
Now I know you as a woman.
You were there with me.
as the violated girl
caught in hopeless suffering.

The chains of shame and fear
no longer bind my heart and body.
A slow fire of compassion and forgiveness
is kindled.
My tears fall now for man as well as woman.

You, God,
can make our violated bodies
vessels of love and comfort
to such a desperate man.
I am honoured to carry this womanly power
within my body and soul.

You were not ashamed of your wounds.
You showed them to Thomas
as marks of your ordeal and death.
I will no longer hide these wounds of mine.
I will bear them gracefully,
They tell a resurrection story.

In the body of a crucified woman, this woman saw the story of her own suffering. She understood in that moment that she was not alone, that God in Jesus had suffered and was suffering with her. So powerful was her experience that, in a verse that I was tempted to omit, she even gives value to that suffering.

On the cross, Jesus showed once for all that the God in whom we believe does not stand aloof, remote, and indifferent to our suffering, but is intimately connected to and directly engaged with all humanity. God in Jesus endured betrayal, abandonment, and denial; he experienced a sham trial, humiliation, brutality and finally the cruellest of deaths.

On the cross, Jesus demonstrated that God stands in solidarity with all who have been violated, abused, and oppressed, with all who have been tortured, falsely accused, and wrongly executed, with all who have been colonised, neglected, overlooked, and abandoned. In the crucified Christ, all who suffer trauma, indignity, or humiliation, see someone who identifies with and shares their pain.

Only a God who fully identifies with our sufferings, can reassure us that God knows what we are going through. Only a God who suffers as we suffer can help us to endure (and even overcome) our own suffering. Only a God who fully enters the human condition can reassure us that God truly knows what it is to be human.

God does know – and that is what makes this Friday “Good”.