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Good Friday Experience Testimonial — Fran George

“My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

There are times in life when a verse of scripture speaks deeply to your soul, but you may wonder what it will look like and how it will unfold in the reality of life. Good Friday 2023 was such a time for me and I wondered how God would work this verse into the fabric of my life. I don’t remember who told me about the Good Friday Experience at Providence but somehow, I found myself on that rainy Good Friday in the late afternoon, walking through the doors of Providence, into a space unfamiliar in some ways and yet just like home. When I walked through the doors, I knew I had come to the right place.

As I began the Good Friday Experience and walked into the first space, I didn’t really know what to expect. There were people and scripture was read overhead but no one was talking. It was as though I had entered into Holy Week, transported back in time, as a spectator. Stretching before me was a burlap pathway meandering through the room, coats and cloaks and palm branches lining the pathway. As my eyes traveled down the pathway, I found myself walking alongside the path, winding through the room, seeing the image of Jesus on a donkey and hearing scripture of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. I was drawn into the crowd, although it felt as though I was the only one in the room. All the while, my heart heard, “My presence will go with you…”

A few steps later, I found myself stepping behind a curtain, and standing in a “room” made with colorful, middle eastern fabrics. I was transported instantly to a traditional Jewish Passover dinner, the dinner table low to the ground and surrounded with large pillows for lounging during dinner. Goblets half filled, bread and bitter herbs, only partially eaten, sat undisturbed on the table. It was as if the guests had just left the tent. As I stood and surveyed the scene, I could almost see Jesus and his closest friends, though one proved to be a traitor, sitting in this very intimate space. It was an odd feeling, as I stood there looking at the long table, hearing scripture describing this last meal. I was being given a glimpse of that sacred scene, yet the characters were not there. It was as if they had just left and I found myself wishing I had been there to see them.
As I walked out from behind the curtain, I gave one last glimpse back and then walked into the next room. Gethsemane.

A room set in the late, late evening, the only light coming from the night moon and the only sound, the night sounds of crickets. Foreboding and sorrow overtook the space and still no one spoke. We all looked at the garden space and the stone where Jesus may have knelt in prayer. The room, though filled with people like me, stood only as observers, beginning to comprehend the agony that drove Jesus to sweat drops of blood. In silence we stood. I felt a deep grief over what I realized was about to come for Jesus, the agony and the betrayal of a friend… all that I might have rest.

The next room felt huge and hollow, with many people mingling around, as a large screen projected high on the wall depicted the trial of Jesus before Pilate. It was cold and I sensed the out-of-control emotions of a mob yelling, “Crucify Him.” Then my eyes fell on a long table in the front of the room where a crown made of thorns lay with a purple robe. I filed past with the crowd and touched the thorny crown and ran my hand over the purple robe and quietly walked out of the room. The experience was quickly coming to its climax and as I looked back one last time to the cavernous room, I thought, “How did it come to this?” I felt a deep sorrow of what was to come. Again, I heard in my spirit, “This is not all there is. My presence will go with you and I will give you rest. Follow Me.”

Across the hall and into one final space, I journeyed. I entered a darkened room. But this darkness was not the same as Gethsemane. It was deeper and more powerful, like I was standing on the very precipice of eternity. Once again, people filed in but this time they sat down in seats. We were scattered all across the room. The room felt small as our eyes were focused on the cross. I saw people. I saw friends. I even saw a family member. But no one spoke as they entered and it was as though, I was the only person there and the Lord said, “Come and sit alone and witness what I have done for you.”

The crucifixion unfolded, larger than life, before me. The thunderous groaning of creation when the Savior of the world was lifted up to die was almost deafening. Words crawled across a screen in black and white… “It was meant to signal death but instead it’s a sign of living. It was meant to be the end but instead it’s our beginning. Come to the Cross.” I sat alone, and felt the tears streaming down my face. All for me.

And then I suddenly realized there was another subtle noise in the room. It was the sound of a heavy wooden mallet pounding in the front of the room and there were streams of people, men and women, young and old, writing on small black pieces of paper, writing something, naming their sins and then nailing them silently, one by one, to the old rugged cross. I rose and walked down to the front and nailed my sins there, hammering them to the cross. I walked back to my seat and watched the words again scroll on the wall. Friends walked by and spoke and I’m not sure I even responded, so moved by the image before me of the price that was paid for me. For you.
I don’t know how long I sat there in that space pondering the cross and sensing His very near presence. “You are not alone in this journey, daughter.” I could almost hear Him.

When I finally walked toward the back of the room and just before I concluded the journey, I picked up a simple cross made of palms. There were tables and tables of them, filled with nothing but palm branch crosses. And then it hit me – although I had walked through the Good Friday Experience alone, I was really never alone. Jesus was my close companion all the way… from the Triumphal Entry through the Last Supper. He was there with me in Gethsemane and He looked on me with compassion as He stood trial in my place and was condemned, yet He had never done anything wrong. And then on the cross, though for all of humanity He gave His life, I realized He gave His life for me.
I picked up my cross and walked to my car in the rain and drove home and called my husband, still at work and everyone I knew and said, “Come! Come and see! Come to the cross!” I went back at least three times with many friends and walked silently with them through each room and thanked Jesus for Good Friday.

And I walked through the next two days leading to Easter 2023, I can look back now and know the scripture He gave me was true…
“My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” All true. On so many levels He gave rest. As I anticipate walking through the Good Friday Experience 2024, now as a member of Providence Church, I thank Jesus for this journey and sing, “Hallelujah! Thank You Jesus. I was a prisoner. Now I’m not. With Your blood You bought my freedom. Hallelujah for the Cross.”

– Fran George

 

Learn more about the Good Friday Experience and how you can experience it this year at easteratprovidence.com.

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