Reflections from “On That Morning”

By Pat Maier

As one of the illustrators for When from Death I’m Free: A Hymn Journal for Holy Week, I was privileged to be the visual artist for the song “On That Morning,” I thought I’d share some of the reflections I had as I sat down to illustrate this beautiful modern hymn. Perhaps my reflection will provide a spark for your own quiet time…

I became aware of “On That Morning” several years ago and immediately was captivated by the contrasts in Kip Fox’s lyrics: “blessed beyond compare/lost and broken;” “death had its way/I was saved;” “love beyond all comprehension/siding with the worst offenders;” and the fact that His love longed so deeply for my heart that He “postponed” heaven, at terrible consequence to Himself, until He could take me to be with Him!

At the same time, the repetition in the lines of the chorus (“on the earth,” “on the cross,” “on that night,” “on that morning”) seemed to scoop me up in the midst of the contrasts and shine light on the one purposeful path Jesus traveled through it all for me. And in the contrasts and confusion that is life for us all, it’s the path He walks with us today, through burdens and shame, no fear of death, and promise of life.

About the same time I first heard this song, I also became aware of the practice of creative Bible journaling for the first time. Creative journaling on the pages of my Bible helps me hold onto the truths that I read, apply God’s Word to His faithfulness in my life, and to remember those words for sharing in conversation with others. I journal scripture phrases, application and sermon notes, and personal prayers; hymn lyrics are an especially powerful addition when paired with a related passage. 

One of my very first margins connected the lyrics of “On That Morning” with Scripture. I focused on the resurrection account in John 20, specifically Mary Magdalene’s words in v. 18, “I have seen the Lord!” I felt Kip Fox’s lyrics could have been her words. And mine. And yours.

John 20: some of my very first Bible journaling experiments

When I sat down to illustrate this song for the book, the contrasts and repetition in the song gave me a place to begin. A simple figure repeated in the image, but with huge contrast:

  1. First, a figure representing you and me – reaching out and falling, lost and broken, surrounded by various shapes arranged every-which-way, further illustrating the idea of our brokenness;
  2. Then the figure of Jesus on the center cross, stretching out his arms to share my burden on the hill of Calvary, as the storms of life and suffering come as deadly lightning bolt images from above;
  3. The figure of Jesus in death, surrounded by the dark night and death, all within a dark patterned background to contrast with the rest of the image; 
  4. Finally, on THAT MORNING, the praising, worshiping, rejoicing figure next to the open tomb!
Repetition and contrast in the Visual Faith art for “On That Morning”

When I pause to reflect, small words often jump out with significance….. “BUT on that morning” connected vividly for me with the words of the bridge, “When the stone was rolled away,” so I worked them in next to the “I was saved”-open tomb image to create the idea of the stone rolled to the side. Beams of light radiate out from the center circle as the Light of the World defeats death’s darkness.

“But on that morning I was saved.”

I should mention that even when Jesus’ dead body was laid in the tomb (bottom right), there was hope – which is signified by the Easter lilies growing around it and the chain of flower images winding around the body and tomb.

Those were some of my thoughts as I reflected on the lyrics of the song and what Jesus has done for me, and as I endeavored to create an image that might encourage others in their meditation of this song and devotion.

After the hymn journal was put together and published, my good friend Karen Neuendorf was coloring this image and took time to send me what I thought was a puzzling message: “I especially like the way the little weightlifter escaped my attention until I got to that section….”

This is the picture my friend Karen included in her text.

I thought: “Little weightlifter?! What is she talking about?” And then I laughed.

I laughed because I loved the name she gave to my little rejoicing guy! And I laughed because God is SO good, that He took a simple illustration and added meaning to it far beyond my intent… perhaps one more inspired contrast to reflect on: that we might picture ourselves – struggling under the weight of our life burdens and sin – having that burden lifted by Jesus “on that cross on that night,” so that “on this morning” (and every morning) we can rejoice!

Wow – thanks, Karen.

After sharing this story in a Facebook conversation, another good friend, Rachel Hinz, added that “the little weightlifter” reminded her of the expression of joy, delight, and fun that children have when playing with parachutes.

As a former 3rd grade teacher who used parachutes in gym class, I was immediately struck by her comment, which added meaning to my own personal take-away.

I’m grateful to God that my reflection, expressed and shared through illustration, was picked up and used by others as they also reflected on Jesus and His work for us, and that Jesus used their reflections, shared with me, to bring me deeper into His Word.

And this is all frosting on the cake, an extra layer of sweet blessing on top of what is already a deeply powerful contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice shared with us by Kip Fox in the lyrics of this hymn, lyrics which themselves reflect the truths of Jesus’ death and resurrection revealed in the inspired Word of God.

God’s Word, when shared, is truly a gift that keeps on giving!

As the lyrics lead us through burdens, shame, and death, they conclude with the line that must be left in our minds – the melody that lingers and won’t go away, of words that smack of joy, delight, and eternal celebration – “But on that morning, I was saved!”

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  1. The Little Weightlifter is what stood out to me, too! He illustrates the relief of a heavy burden lifted, of escaping the crushing weight, and of the joy of regaining a stance of freedom!

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