It’s been a long week.

One of those weeks when I’ve felt so tired all day long then crawled into bed and been unable to sleep peacefully.

One of those weeks when I’ve woken up every morning with my throat feeling as if someone decided to fill it with cotton balls and the thought of even trying to swallow has been more than I could bear.

Yesterday, I gave in to my sickness and stayed home from work.

I just couldn’t push through another day when I could barely hold my head up straight.

Instead, I slept for hours.

Today, we had a snow day, and even though God may have had nothing to do with this little unexpected gift, I told Him,

“Thank you,” anyway.

The truth is, literally and figuratively,

Life is tough when it’s hard to swallow.

I was reading this morning in Exodus about the institution of the tabernacle and the anointing of the priests.

I came to these words,

Take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head.

 Slaughter it and take the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar.  

Cut the ram into pieces and wash the internal organs and the legs,

putting them with the head and the other pieces.

Then burn the entire ram on the altar.

It is a burnt offering to the Lord,

a pleasing aroma,

a food offering presented to the Lord.

I found myself gagging as I visualized the scene.

Blood from a ram being splattered.

Pieces of a ram being burned.

Surely this whole ceremony was emotional for everyone involved.

Surely the killing of one of their flock meant something to them,

hurt them in some way,

caused them to reflect on the fine line between life and death.

Surely this ceremony was hard to swallow………………

Knowing that with their frail human hands they were squeezing the life right out of another breathing creature.

Even if they never spoke the words out loud, surely they wondered if there could be another way.

Yet, over and over again, God commanded the Israelites to bring animal sacrifices to Him.

Over and over again, they slaughtered and splattered and worshiped.

Somehow they knew that blood meant life and without the blood real living was impossible.

So they sprinkled this reminder on every part of the tabernacle.

This blood.

I have to believe that even the high priest gulped at the sight from time to time,

struggling to swallow.

He had to know in this moment of sacrifice that humanity was admitting

her limitation,

her boundary,

her weakness,

her need for a Savior.

He had to feel the presence of God in a mighty way as he found life hard to swallow.

He had to know he was not alone in the middle of the bloody mess.

Isn’t that how God works today?

He somehow shows up when we’re gulping or when we’ve bit off more than we can chew.

He finds us in the middle of the ugliest moments and says,

“Settle down. I’m here.”

He gently whispers that there is no amount of mess that will keep Him away.

He softly speaks our name and our struggle turns to peace.

The blood begins to cleanse.

The washing away of all that is wrong happens in the midst of the slimy, red mess surrounding us.

His blood covers us when life is hard to swallow.

And honestly, there are no medications, no tricks, no magic words on this planet that will ever take the place of His blood.

Therefore, brothers and sisters,

since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by

the blood of Jesus,

by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,

 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings,

having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies

washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:19-22