Holy Week is a study in paradox. The somber and the celebratory.
I know many people politely pay their respects to Good Friday, impatient to get to the explosion of praise on Sunday. These people want to celebrate and give thanks for the life and abundance they are experiencing in their season. I get that and I think it’s wonderful – I’ve been there. I am there, in a way.
Last year, I visited a different camp. I spent last Good Friday as a Mourner. (I suppose I always will, in a way.) And to the people in that group who resonate terribly with this ‘holiday’, who recognize all-too-well the specter of death, the hope extinguished, the DARKNESS…I am so sorry you’re in that place. I know (I’ve felt) that He promises to be near to the brokenhearted and crushed in Spirit. But that doesn’t make it much easier, does it?
But there’s a third group. The Saturday people, often overlooked in the church. I think it’s because we make projects out of the Friday people and leaders out of the Sunday people. But what about the people in that bleak and weary middle. Who have heard the repeated promises of redemption and are just…waiting. Who commiserate with the Mourners and can’t help but grin at the Sunday celebrators, but go home to their threadbare resolve.
This is the story of my very best Saturday. But I won’t ever forget the time I spent in that waiting place.
If you have been sitting in darkness for so long that light seems impossible…If your Sunday has been months, years, DECADES in the making…I’m so sorry. I see you. It is unfair. It is maddening. I know how empty the Christian clichés are. I know how it can actually make you physically angry when someone tries to offer you hope.
But I also remember needing to be tossed up against the solid Truth every once in a while, painful as it was. So for what it’s worth, I’ll quote Jen Hatmaker:
I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone.
For what it's worth, I'll wait and watch with you and for you.
Last year, I felt Good Friday like a physical stabbing.
It had been four months since my miscarriage and death still felt so near to me, smoke lingering in the room. For the first time in my life, I felt -- acutely-- the darkness of what that day must have been. I felt like I had been sitting in the midst of my own months' long Good Friday. A season of grief, saying goodbye to Good Hope and Sweet Life. That sob in the dark, begging WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN US.
I felt such empathy for Jesus' followers, sitting in the space where Hope had so recently lived and asking, "What did we miss? Were we wrong about who God is?"
I felt lost and it seemed inordinately cruel that I would be asked to continue to trust that God would somehow 'work it out for good.' I couldn't imagine seeing light again.
Drew tells this story from his time in Africa. He and some friends went to explore an old railroad tunnel in Kenya. Their local guide warned them that the tunnel was so dark and echoing that they would need to hold hands and shuffle through together in order to not get lost. He said that just as the light from the entrance to the tunnel was disappearing around a curve, he felt the fluttering of wings. Their host explained that it was bats. And then the light was gone and Drew was left in an eerie darkness unlike any he'd ever experienced. He said they just continued to hold hands and shuffle into the void. Finally, after a long time, they saw the first shafts of light -- the tunnel's exit, coming into view as they rounded another corner. And yet, by that same light, they were able to see exactly the situation they were in. There weren't just a handful of bats, as Drew had assumed. There were hundreds, THOUSANDS, fluttering everywhere above and around them. He said it was worse than the darkness, seeing exactly what he was up against and exactly how far he still had to go in order to escape. He knew it was going to get worse before it got better. And there was nothing to do but to go through it.
Drew told me this story last year, as we trudged through Good Friday. He said he felt in his Spirit that we were at a juncture - that we were through the darkest part of the tunnel, but that things were, in a way, going to get worse before they got better. But that we just needed to keep holding hands and moving toward the light.
So after allowing myself to feel the full sadness of Good Friday -
a parent forced to see His child in death
a people forced to watch their hope drain away
a God-fearing person forced to contend with that twisting fear of feeling alone and confued and abandoned in pain
I fell asleep, exhausted but somehow encouraged by the 'me too' of this narrative. I expected to spend that Saturday - the Jewish Sabbath - as I imagine Jesus' loved ones did: resigned and resting.
Instead, I woke up and took a pregnancy test.
And there she was.
Our first glimpse of light.
There are times when things feel so dark that all you need is a flicker to get you off the ground. To remind you of what light looked like, to stir that foreign tickle of hope in your soul. To get you moving resolutely in search of more light, even when you know it will be hard.
That's what she was. Noah Zamar. Our Easter girl. Our good news. Our comfort and our praise.
Life where there was death.
Light where there was dark.