DISCLAIMER: I wrote this awhile ago in regards to the pandemic. When I finally got around to posting it on Saturday, cities across the country were on fire. Since truth is truth is truth, I tweaked a few lines because I didn’t want to ignore the latest current events. I’m giving myself an A for effort, but the hurts of Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd are fresh. It’s still Good Friday. We’re still grieving. So while Easter in June is noble, please read it with a grain of salt, as it was written to address an entirely different pandemic.
Let’s pretend this post isn’t 7 weeks late, because I’d really like to talk about Easter. Who isn’t having Good Fridays and Sundays right now? Good days and bad days, peaks and valleys, roses and thorns? That intense tug of war match between the heavy and the light? That’s Easter. Or at least, that’s the part of Easter that’s helping me process our current chaos.
The headlines make it seem like evil might prevail after all. Everywhere I look it’s pitch black and heavy. We are attacking each other with machetes at storage units. We are setting fire to patrol cars. We are missing the point every time we say “all lives matter.”
Days like this, like Good Friday, are tragic and horrific. They make me want to day drink Cabernet & never change out of my pajamas. Between the pandemic and civil injustices, some days I’m too tense to even cry.
Oddly enough, I find comfort when I look back at the horrible things that happened in history. History says: nothing is new. Humans have screwed up wildly before, and yet we’ve persevered. Unthinkable things have happened in the past, and yet hope remains.
While being persecuted under Nazi regime in Auschwitz, Etty Hillesum wrote, “suffering has always been with us, does it really matter in what form it comes? All that matters is how we bear it and how we fit it into our lives.”
In the Easter story, some bear their suffering by condemning an innocent man. They thought Jesus would be the king to overthrow the current throne, and when Jesus made it clear that wasn’t his intention, they elected to kill him. Even though Pilate, the governor, saw no reason to prosecute Jesus, Pilate appeased them. As a result, a guilty murderer was released, and Jesus, an innocent rabbi, faced death by capital punishment.
Nowadays we don’t bear our suffering that much differently. We protest the stay at home order armed with guns and entitlement. We abandon love and jump on social media to dig our heels into our position; judging, hurting, polarizing, and pushing people further away. And some of us, like the politicians in the Easter story, emotionally check out. In “keeping the peace” we become lukewarm, neutral, and useless in the process.
In more passive ways, sometimes we don’t bear our suffering at all. We twist the Easter message into brute force optimism; which is based on the idea that if we can’t remain upright, then we must be weak. When life gets messy brute force optimism steps in with a quick fix answer to get us back on our feet as soon as possible. In my experience that answer typically comes in the form of a way-too-concise bible verse. Or it sounds a lot like the bargaining stage of grief: “We just need to…” “…pray, reopen the country, keep smiling, etc.” And my least favorite of all is the good ole phrase, “everything happens for a reason.”
If Good Friday is the chaos that makes us not want to change out of our pajamas three days in a row, then Sunday is our best friend showing up to encourage us right when we’re about to collapse. But we can’t hakuna matata the heavy things and go straight to the good stuff. Dwelling in Love doesn’t mean that we are never rattled by tragedy. That isn’t the Easter message; we aren’t meant to skip Good Friday and go straight to Sunday.
Jesus, as he was dying on the cross, cries out to God and says “WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” He doesn’t say, “God you are in control. Everything happens for a reason.” Instead he gives us a permission slip to be human— not to plaster on a smile and pretend like everything is A-OK always. We are allowed to feel our grief and disappointment without being hopeless, ungrateful, or unchristian.
Good Friday mode shouldn’t last forever, though. The climax of the Easter story is that capital H Hope reigns after all. When Jesus died he was laid to rest in a guarded cave with a massive boulder for a door. But as the story goes Jesus (Love, Order, Hope, and Light) can not be held down, not even when we think it’s dead and gone for good.
This concept is already unfolding six sentences into Genesis, when we’re introduced to the act of bringing order to chaos, light to darkness. What used to be a formless and empty void, is slowly transformed into something new; something that we’re told is ‘good’. Then that exact theme is repeated throughout the rest of the Bible, to Easter and beyond.
Do you see the poetic paradox in all of this? We acknowledge this by calling it Good Friday and not Horrible Friday, because evil is not eternal, but goodness is. Even the most wicked and heartbreaking events can yield meaning, hope, and righteousness. In a word: redemption. What if *every*thing does not happen for a reason but what if everything can be redeemed?
That is the great gift of Easter. We don’t have to bury our heads in the sand to get through hard things. Nor do wallow in our negativity and get stuck there. Nor do we match suffering with more suffering. Hope is not a flimsy silver lining, or a glass half full thing. Hope isn’t “making the best of it” and it’s not brute force optimism either. It’s way more powerful. We will still have bad days, we will still grieve, we will still screw things up, but we will not be Hopeless. Nothing and no one is too far gone. Love, Order, Hope, and Light have risen and they will prevail.
When Christ ascends and joins the All, He reminds us that He isn’t the only one who can bring order to chaos, light to darkness. Although our human tendency is to add chaos to chaos, darkness to darkness, Love says we are not defined by our faults & failures. Even as hot mess humans, we too can redeem and be redeemed, here and now.
So to those of us who have a tendency to skip Good Friday: permission to be upset. Slivers of suffering are valid, too. To those of us who can’t remember the last time we brushed our teeth: an invitation to get up off the couch. We can choose love, grace and goodness. We have the power to illuminate the dark when we’re still pacing in the dark. And should we find ourselves living a hollowed out version of Sunday, maybe we need to go back and feel it so we can come back as agents of redemption.
Maintaining the status quo isn’t working anymore. We need to create more opportunities to spread Hope. How do we bring order to chaos; light to darkness? Does it mean giving a big smile to a stranger on the street? Having a conversation with the grocery store clerk just to see how they’re doing? Does it mean writing your congressman to ask for justice for a man that didn’t deserve to die? Does it mean washing the dishes instead of watching another episode of The Office? Is there a way to see the pandemic from all angles? Can we feel for the person who might lose their business but also have compassion for the at-risk population; for the doctors and nurses battling on the front line everyday? Can we come together instead of taking sides?
Hope and redemption come in many forms. Sometimes I’m tired, worn out, and I have to strain my eyes to see it. Especially right now when the world, and our country are in Good Friday. But I do wholeheartedly believe that Hope will prevail; and I don’t think it takes much to get the ball rolling.