Coming into Easter is different than coming into Christmas. With Christmas there is anticipation of joy. Of arrival. Of a gift. I want to say that I feel the excitement of Easter Sunday’s arrival like I do Christmas—at the triumph of life over death….at God’s victory…..at the beauty of hope and newness and green life.
But there’s always something that gives me pause.
And I think its because before we get there, to Easter Sunday, there are always those few days before.
There is Thursday. There is confusion on Thursday. There is severe and deep betrayal. There is despair. There is lament—there is a man deeply disturbed in the grass, BEGGING to be spared.
And there is Friday. There is always death, gruesome, tragic, unjust, unfair death. There are real bodies hurting in ways I hope TO GOD I never have to know. There is weeping. When was the last time you wept….really wept. There is a mother crushed under the weight of her beautiful piece of sky being destroyed and tossed aside.
And there is Saturday. There is numbness. And questions. There is silence. There are so many questions but no words in response. And more tears…..tears of those who don’t know which way to go, or turn now. There is a story ruptured right in the middle of it and no one knows why.
The anticipation of having a child, even while knowing the form of terror and beauty that is first time childbirth, even while knowing that bringing a baby home is life-altering and hard it is still fraught with excitement, with life, and hopefully with a deep joy. Christmas is this-it is a longing fulfilled. A hope given. It is waiting and it is receiving. And so it’s a bit easier to enter into.
But no one I know wants to live through the real life correlative of the Easter story. No one wants to feel that despair, or that confusion. No one wants to have to lament that deeply. No one wants to be torn open body and soul. No one wants to have their worst fears come true. No one wants the numbness that comes from talking to darkness and hearing nothing back. No one wants to have to traverse through these to get to the Sunday. And yet these things ARE. They are our lives. And they are a part of our story as Christians. An integral, inextricable part.
These parts have been my story. I have to continuously own my story—the hard parts. I wish I could have gotten through without them. They bring me shame and they make me sad at some of the hurt they caused other people. And they make me ache in my heart even now as I think of the ache in my heart back then. But they are there.
On that Thursday, there was also water being made dirty with bodies being washed clean, There was bread shared. These are a presence. A Real and Embodied PRESENCE promised in very ordinary things. And ultimately, after hours of struggle, there was a peace—an acquiescence, an ability to follow that defied every urge to turn away.
On that Friday, there was compassion for another damned body, there was provision for a mother at a time when her knees could not hold her much longer. And there was a closeness of spirit—an intimacy of relationship. There was a cry of ‘DADDY” and an ability to hand over the reigns, to let go in a trust that defied any sort of logic and sense.
On that Saturday, there was community. There were others gathering in darkness. There was rituals for the dead, there were rituals for those still living. There was a presence of bodies and souls touching that somehow made that interminable gray day pass.
No one wants to have to live through these days. WHY, GOD, are they the days that lead up to your SUNDAY? I do not want my babies to walk through these days.
I know they are the way through to Sunday. These are the days that walk us there, up to those crosses on a hill. And there is a presence throughout. This is no small thing. We are not left alone and that sun just keeps coming up on Sundays.
When I was younger , I thought God had left me. I was lost in a daze of disordered thinking and disordered eating and a disordered spirituality that thought this is what was required. It turns out that He had not. But he was with me in ways I had not been trained to see. He was with me in the friends I made at the coffee shop who taught me to laugh again even when they were hurting themselves. He was with me in a gay man who LOVED enjoying food and LOVED sharing food. I became a little less broken because of him. He was with me when I found real live Christians who listened more than they declared. He was with me when I walked and walked and walked outside. He was with me over years of recovering and years of learning to let go. And when I came to a point of wholeness, I realized that he had not left. He always was there, present in the daily, body things I had always known. Work, food, community and the big, big sky.
I had walked through a bramble and found he was there through the thick of it, wincing with every thorn that pierced me for they had pierced Him too. I walked through my own Holy Week, my own passion, and found He was there because He walked through it too.
My Easter Sunday is joyful—it is. There is usually sunlight and color. There is a desire to enter it. But not with a triumphalism that will ever forget those thorns. And not without having to walk through the days that come before.
Walking up to Sunday is with the expansive joy and relief that sees the past days being redeemed. And it is also with that terrifying and heady sensation of being known and seen. Easter Sunday, for me, is the triumph and lifted heart of hope that life and light will, and do, prevail over darkness and death.
And it is with the knowledge that Easter is rooted solidly in the particular lives that have all walked up that road to that cross. We cannot grasp Sunday until we hear each other’s stories. We cannot intellectually “get” Easter without all the stories about Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays. Our collective lives’ own Holy Week. The cross only makes sense in our deeply personal stories. Our stories are not only for pleasant feel good testimony time—they are for the unedited reality of Easter Sunday to be displayed—for our lives to be redeemed in their telling and in the incredible gift and glory of a Saturday turning to Sunday.
The story of my own “bramble” or my own Holy Week is being redeemed when it can bring new life—when it can bring Presence to my own or someone else’s life. When it is re-told in such a way that it is being brought closer and closer to the heart of God, gathering up other’s along the way. It is being redeemed when I hear my story’s invitation to live closer to my daily and ordinary work, community, food and piece of sky. When my story becomes part of His own Story in the world, it is being redeemed. It has been gloriously and it still is everyday.
I weep with different tears on Sunday morning—the PRESENCE that was always there in those dark days is now revealing itself to be THE PRESENCE that makes us new in the passage of these days. Miraculously, wonderously, unbelievably and in ways we have not always been trained to see –that PRESENCE that makes me whole and retells my story–this is my Easter. Sometimes with thunder and a grinning angel and sometimes just with that line of light on the horizon that gradually lights up my next step.