Pew Cushions In California Are The Same In The East Coast

The pew cushions were light blue and they had a rough polyester-feeling texture to them. And they had buttons. I can remember trying to pull them off, but I never got one. The back of the pew in front of us had a rack for hymnals complete with a little hole for the pencil. Popping it in and out of its hole was usually good for a few minutes distraction.

I grew up in southern California, which was pretty fun. I also grew up going to church which was fine in its own way. Afterwards they always had Sunny Delight, which bears a vague resemblance to orange juice. And I liked looking at the stained glass windows.

The message however was little lost on me. The minister always closed his sermons by saying, “May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our strength, and you are our redeemer.”

I liked that part. I didn’t know what it meant really, but it was predictable and kind of rolled off the tongue.

The other thing I remember is hearing them say that Jesus died to show that he loved us. I always thought that kind of odd. Odd because I had no idea what it meant. It’s not the sort of thing you want to argue with. Love and death are a big deal and I didn’t want to appear ungrateful, but I didn’t get it.

My dad loved me– which is why he pretty much did all my science projects for me. I got that. And my mom loved me. She fed me, took care of me when I was sick and was just a general all around great mom. But if either of them had ever said to me, “Timothy, we love you. And we want to show you how much.” And then doused themselves with gasoline and lit themselves on fire, I wouldn’t have been grateful at all. I would have been horrified. What did they do that for?

Jesus died to show he loved me. Ahh, yeah, sorry. I don’t get that.

You might be smarter than I am, but it took me years to figure this one out. A better illustration would be more like this:

I’m downtown near a busy intersection crossing the street when my Mom notices a big truck barreling towards me. She leaps into the street to push me out of the way, and is herself hit by the semi. I’m safe, she’s dead and love is on full display.

Or maybe this: For whatever reason there’s a bad guy in our house and he’s got his gun pointed at me. Seeing that he’s about to squeeze the trigger, my dad jumps in between us and takes the bullet himself. Again I’m saved, he’s dead, and love is on full display.

You can probably imagine your own scenarios in which my parent’s death wouldn’t be an act of idiocy but a display of love. I’m pretty sure that in every one of them I’d have to be in some sort of danger. Kidney failure, drowning, burning building, you name it, but I’ve got to be in danger. The principal that I finally figured out was that death only shows love when the one who is loved is in grave danger.

But if that’s true, and if it’s also true that Jesus’ death did show love, then that had to mean that I was in danger. That was what was missing in my understanding. What was I in danger of? Where’s the truck, the bullet, the train that Jesus was jumping in front of? Without danger his death is nonsense. What hit was he taking on my behalf?

As it turns out the Bible is actually pretty clear on that point. The hit he took was the wrath of God against me for every rotten thing I’ve ever done.

Crucifixion is brutal. God have mercy on whoever thought it up. It kills you by asphyxiation. After having your hands and feet nailed to a cross, the weight of your body is borne primarily by your arms and chest. Eventually the muscles fatigue and knot and spasm so severely that it becomes difficult to breathe. The only way to get a breath is to push up on your feet and give the muscles in your upper body a chance to rest. This however is excruciating due to the nails in your feet and can only be endured a moment. So you slip back down into the chest agonizing position until the thirst for oxygen overcomes the pain in your feet and you push up again. This cycle continues until you’re too exhausted to lift up again and you suffocate.

As Jesus endured that physical torture, God took all his wrath for the trillions of sins by billions of sinners and focused it on his son. Jesus willingly became a scapegoat and exhausted the wrath of God so there’d be none left for me.

And none left for you either.

He did it because he loves you and wants you to be happy. Happy in a relationship with him. A relationship that wasn’t possible until your sin had been forgiven and taken away. He has gone through ridiculous lengths to bring that about. It's worth looking into.

Want to know more?

Feel free to browse around and read anything else you find here. Or for a more expansive collection of essays about life, God and a relationship with him, check out

Want a succinct summary of how you can begin a relationship with God?
It's right here.

If you have a question to which you'd like a personalized response via email,
drop us a line.