“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith.”Fred Buechner
Good Friday–an odd name for this day. If you’re Christian and you go to church today you know the day is observed as solemn, for obvious reasons. In the course of 24 hours, Jesus was abandoned by his friends, the ones who loved and believed in Him. He chose not to use his magical powers to walk on water the heck out of a brutally painful situation, as most every other human would do. Instead, He accepted his friends’ shortcomings and loss of faith and betrayal, and chose to live out the fate of unfolding doom and gloom.
More heartbreak. More nonsensical sadness. What do we do with these emotions? An early blog talked about the tendency to ask “Why?” At a young person’s funeral, I once heard the response to this unanswerable ‘why’. It was this: “When you can’t explain, proclaim.” Often, there is no explaining.
Yesterday a minister got teary eyed about that sacrifice, reminding us that Jesus was human throughout these days, and he felt the pain as fully as we would. He felt the tremendous hurt of not only lack of support, but betrayal, by those closest to Him. He also felt the searing pain of lashings, and of not understanding why He was being called to what felt like such a horrific end to His story.
Some degree of these feelings resonates for us all. We’ve all experienced hopelessness. A long cancer battle ends in death, the good guy gets usurped, we watch someone we love go from fully alive to fully not there, (and by the way, where? )
We have all experienced rough days. Or rough lives, where it seems pretty depressing, and, like, well, everyone is just gonna die in the end anyway. What do you do with that kind of defeated attitude? I once heard Gil Bowen from Kenilworth Union Church preach on the lesson of waiting three days. Breathe deep, and know that at the essence of the Easter story, when on a Friday afternoon things can seem as discouraging and unjust as can be, you can have a total change of heart and hope—in a just a few days’ time. We just have to hang on.
The Easter story gives us a model of what we do not if, but when, we experience excruciating loss, betrayal, or separation. Meditation, time in nature, exercise, music, breathwork, focused living; there are many ways to quiet the mind and set the stage to listen. We wait patiently before we respond mindfully, with faith and space between stimulus and response.
Three stories here are emblematic of pain and grief, signatures of Good Friday:
First, the Notre Dame fire. Notice fear represented in the image above, with haunting gargoyles, meant to fend off evil spirits, instead watching and witnessing fire and devastation to a century place of worship and the relics therein.
Find here a reflection from an Episcopalian rector on the personal significance of the Oklahoma City bombing, an event that occurred 24 years ago today. Do you remember it? I do. It was just weeks after my own father’s sudden death. Amazing how pain can resonate, this day especially. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FgXcjjXY1RLLjAfCrapv7wBYk2QKvCko-YUMVok552g/edit
And last, a clip from The Passion of the Christ, the movie Mel Gibson did on Christ’s crucifixion. The movie, brutally realistic, intentionally portrays the Easter story in full color. (The clip below is an easier one, but still represents some of the pain endured. There are some unbearable scenes. The Passion broke many hearts.)
On this day, practice sitting with the grief. A mindful approach is to accept the darkness, and know that the Light will soon break through, but not to run from or deny the dark. It is not easy, the proverbial deep end of a Lenten meditation.
Breathe, forgive, and be comfortable sitting in the presence of uncomfortable emotions. Observe your response. No better way to understand than to remember the Easter story this Good Friday.