I know. Easter just snuck the heck right on up on us, didn’t it? We’re all just happily cruising our way through the blessing that is March and then BAM! Its Easter! Cue the bunnies and the egg hunts and God’s (other) gift to mankind, Cadberry eggs. This year, Easter decided to play tag with spring break, leaving us all feeling a little short changed in the vacation department. But let’s just all get on board with it, Easter is here.
But before we dive headfirst into chocolate bunnies and Easter dresses, I want to take a pause and reflect on the events leading up to that blessed Easter morning. If you grew up in a traditionally “high church” kind of faith (which I did not) then you are well familiar with the idea of Holy Week and the reverence with which it highlights the week’s events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even if you grew up not so traditionally religious, you probably still have heard the term Good Friday and pieced together that it refers to the actual day that Christ died on the cross for us all.
Not surprisingly, I love Good Friday. (If this comes as a shock to you, you should reexamine the fact that you are willingly reading a blog called “It Ain’t All Rainbows”.) But I have a bone to pick with the way in which we Christians choose to acknowledge the day. We give it it’s due and we throw a little service for it. We warn everyone in attendance that this will be a solemn occasion. The lighting is dark, the mood is somber and we spend roughly 30 minutes total sitting in our utter depravity, mourning the extreme fact that we are so lost in our own sin that God had to come down to us, live as a limited human and then die an archaic and brutal death so that we could come to know complete and everlasting freedom from…well, basically, from ourselves. And we sit in that tension, with the darkness and the whispered prayers and the occasional sniff from what most of us consider to be the over-emotional ones in the bunch. And then without fail, as the service is ending and the crowd is about to disperse back to their everyday lives, someone just cannot resist the temptation to say in the benediction, “But wait! It’s not over! Easter is coming!”
And we all breathe a collective sigh of relief…Phew! That almost got way too real for a minute! I almost forgot about the joy that is Easter! And we leave the room smiling and relieved and chatting about the great miracle that is Easter morning.
Hear me now and hear me clearly: Easter IS miraculous! It IS abounding joy! It IS a time of rebirth and celebration and we should sing at the top of our voices on that blessed Sunday morning and marvel at the power that is a Living God!
But not on Good Friday. Good Friday is what makes Easter Sunday so much better. If you have seen the movie, Inside Out, you know it is sadness that makes joy feel more complete and powerful. If you cheat yourself on the tension of Good Friday, you cheat yourself out of the true celebration of really understanding and feeling what being given grace feels like.
It’s like this for me: Do you ever wish you could go back in time and watch a particular movie for the first time again? I do. I feel that way every time I am reminded of the movie The Princess Bride. Sorry for those of you who saw it as an adult for the first time. I know you don’t get it and aside from Billy Crystal’s amazing performance, the whole thing is just plain silly to you.
But I am amongst the fortunate who saw it for the first time as a young child. I remember the day clearly. It was a cold Saturday morning and we (my siblings and I) had a baby-sitter that day. Actually, the world’s best babysitter, a freaking Mary Poppins if I might be so bold. She was truly amazing and rarely let us watch movies, so the fact that she had brought this one along with her was already special. She popped the tape into the VCR and the movie began…and I didn’t move for another 90 minutes. I vividly remember the emotions I felt watching that movie for the first time. I remember my heart pounding as the man in black scaled the Cliffs of Insanity in pursuit of Buttercup. I remember not knowing if I wanted him to succeed or not. I remember the literal jump I made when that ROUS came flying out of nowhere. I remember the horror of the six fingered man. I remember the passion of a seemingly defeated and dying Inigo Montoya with his crazy matra. I remember so much of how I felt as I watched that movie and for the most part, my 10 year old self felt very much in suspense for most of it. I wasn’t savvy enough yet to pick up on its obvious twists and turns and so I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was thrilling.
And that is how I try to approach Good Friday. I try to forget that I know the rest of the story. I try to sit in the heart of Jesus’ precious disciples who had just watched their best friend and the man in whom they had put all of their hopes and dreams into being the Messiah, die a brutal and awful and seemingly final death. I try to sit in the finality of that moment. I ask God to remind me of my part in that death. Crazy as it may seem, I ask him to let me feel the sting and remorse of the specific sins that lie in my heart and that nailed him to that stake. I sit in the tension of wanting to believe but feeling slightly duped or tricked as I survey the limp body being taken off the Cross, hurriedly prepared and then buried behind a huge, unmoving stone.
I feel the tension. I feel the grief. And I try to hold on to that for as long as I can throughout the weekend. Not to be a masochist or to pile on unnecessary religious guilt but because I AM guilty and someone else took all of my punishment for forever….because He loves me.
And when I sit in that tension for a few days, the love I begin to feel pouring out of my Savior towards me on Easter morning when, hello! He is risen! He has conquered death! He is the hero I believed Him to be! That love is indescribably real. It is assuredly mine. It is worth the tension of the grief that came only two days before.
Maybe this year you sit in the tension a heartbeat longer. Enjoy your Easter weekend but allow yourself a moment or two in the days before the celebration to feel the hopelessness the disciples felt as they hid out in fear for their lives. Imagine the sobs of the women who loved Jesus fiercely as they tried to reconcile the fact of the death they just witnessed with the hope that He really was who He claimed to be.
And then enter the doors of a rejoicing Church on Easter morning when the tomb is rolled away and Jesus is indeed risen. I’m willing to bet the party is that much sweeter for you this time around.