Susan Baller-Shepard: Good Friday Mettle


The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ in many ways is not a "one and done." Sure, we can go into theological debates here, but my point, and I do have one, is, the love of God in Jesus, in that flesh, has got to continue to mean something in the lives of human beings here on earth.

Being a follower of the way of Christ is a tall order. This Good and Holy Friday is a reminder that when the rubber meets the road, our behavior, what we do, matters. Jesus could have "toned it down." He could have "gone home by a different way," and stepped off the road he was on. He could have said he was mistaken, when he proclaimed, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," and "The Kingdom of God is at hand..."

Good Friday's a reminder that Jesus stepped up, and not away, from the challenges before him. How to be more like Christ, or in the quirky vernacular, "What would Jesus do?" Good Friday is a day to watch and learn. Watch and learn. Good Friday's a day Jesus demonstrates the love of God in his life and death that day -- a story that continues on in the lives of those who choose to follow his path, his example. Watch. Learn.

We, who follow, are to be present in very real ways to others. We're to be light, and salt, and to show love the best we humanly can. This is incarnation, love made manifest. We're to be present with those who suffer, who live on the margins, with those society deems not part of the "in" crowd, those dealing with diseases that ravage both body and soul, to be present with those left outside the gate called Beautiful. It can get messy.

Good Friday recalls the cost. To go to bat for others, to put our necks out for those who are less fortunate in one way or another, will cost us. Jesus loses his life for many reasons, his way of being, his challenge to the status quo, his very essence, all make him a threat that others seek to do away with, finish off once and for all. He possesses a different kind of power, God-given. He prays, stays connected. He's fearless and brave, a courage born of that connection and deep love. Lao Tzu wrote, "Because of a great love, one is courageous." Because of great love, Jesus stares down authorities and assures his followers: There's another way to live life.

Author Gretchen Rubin, in her book Better Than Before, talks about the power of habits in our daily lives. It's a great reminder for followers of Christ, to remember that what we do daily matters, to examine the habits we cultivate. At a recent concert, Sarah McLachlan dedicated her song, "In Your Shoes," to Malala Yousafzai. She sang, "You turn and face the struggle when all the others turn and hide, you hold your head above the waves above the war they try to wage, you are stronger than their hate." Jesus reminds us to do this as well, to not run from what is right, to wait and watch love win in the end.

It's called mettle. Want to know how much one mother loves her children? Watch. I've seen how one mother I know lives her life. She's demonstrated amazing fortitude in adversity. Good Friday reminds us, when given a choice, we choose the road that gives life to those we love, even if that's a hard road, the road of sacrifice and pain. My girlfriends and I refer to it as time to "put on your big girl pants." Good Friday reminds us to step up, not away, to keep the faith, to fight the bigger battle, to be fearless in love. It reminds us to connect to the bigger story, beyond our own story, beyond our own life.

One of the myriad horrors of the recent Germanwings Flight 9525 crash is the selfishness of the action taken. How could the co-pilot do such a thing? News agencies are still speculating, while families and friends grieve deeply this senseless act of violence. He doesn't seem to grasp the gravity of his action, how many lives he takes down with his own.

Good Friday urges us to see the connections, the longer view, the wider vision. We give thanks as we remember Jesus' life was about the lives of others, his vision was vast, his love was great. We remember. We watch. We learn. We wait....

"When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death..." (Matthew 27:1).

Photo of the Haitian-hammered metal crucifix above was taken in Leogane, Haiti at the Residence Filariose, which serves as a training facility and guesthouse for visiting researchers working on eradicating Lymphatic Filariasis. This is part of theUniversity of Notre Dame's Neglected Tropical Diseases Initiative in Haiti.

Merriam Webster's definition: mettle

a : vigor and strength of spirit or temperament

b : staying quality : stamina 

quality of temperament or disposition "gentlemen of brave mettle" (Shakespeare)

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