Occasional thoughts from a young adult reveling in the messiness of life.
It has been said that you cannot fully appreciate the joy of Easter without walking through Holy Week.
With that, I have a confession: until this week, I have avoided Holy Week services like the plague. Lent, and the Holy Week that follows, have always been too dark, too depressing for me. Life can get dark enough on its own; I really had no desire to compound the issue. But I made a promise to myself this year that I would walk deliberately and faithfully through Holy Week.
It is now Good Friday, and I have just returned home from my third service of the day, and my seventh Holy Week experience since Wednesday.
And I am weary. I can feel it in my bones. If I feel this weary after just attending a few services, I cannot even begin to imagine how weary Jesus and his disciples felt when it was actually happening.
But there’s one thing that trips me up when I encounter the Gospels…any Gospels, really, but particularly the ones that I’ve immersed myself in this past week. Everything is written with the knowledge and confidence that only hindsight can bring—the surety that yes, Christ died on a Friday, but he rose three days later.
I’ve often wondered what their writings would have looked like if they had written on the Friday Christ died—or in the darkness of the Saturday before He rose. I wonder how alone they must have felt—how much they questioned what they had believed.
But the Gospels are written with the confidence, with the knowledge, and with the comfort of retrospect that makes everything come together so perfectly. Jesus’ stories make sense; his parables have depth of meaning and breadth of application. Just as the disciples had the assurance of knowing the rest of the story when they were writing—we know it too.
But God is called a presence because He is with us, right now, in the present. I have been very blessed to experience the great joy of feeling the nearness of God – the kind of joy that bubbles up from deep within my soul and radiates through my face.
Though, that is not always the case. There have been many times where I have hit roadblocks on my journey, times where I have knelt to pray and felt nothing at all.
And there have been times where I have fallen into the darkness of my own Friday, felt the emptiness a Saturday, and wondered when my Sunday would come.
In those moments, when the loneliness and the emptiness and the darkness have engulfed me, I have found myself sitting at the foot of the cross. I have felt myself reaching up, praying to God to give me my Jesus back. But I know the rest of the story. So I have closed my eyes and pictured myself standing in the garden as Mary Magdalene seeing Jesus for the first time again, reaching out to hold Him. But I would hear Jesus say, “Do not hold on to me. Go and tell others that I have come back.” In my mind, if there were ever moments where I didn’t want to follow, where I didn’t want to respond, where I just wanted to be wrapped in love, it has been then.
But I would open my eyes, and I couldn’t feel it anyway.
In my naivety, I thought that once I had a very real God moment–once I found that joy deep inside, that the feeling would stay with me forever and all would be good and I could frolic through life responding as Christ would—loving God and loving my neighbor.
But that’s not the case. I still stumble, I still hit roadblocks, and I still fall off the mountain and grieve the loss of feeling and seeing God. I imagine that it’s something like what the apostles must have felt on the Friday Jesus died.
Even in those moments, I know the rest of the story. I know that following Jesus means salvation and hope and love, but it also means the cross.
As Christians, we have to accept that Fridays are a part the journey. We are called to something greater in life, but getting there isn’t easy. We are challenged to rely on our faith and lean on God’s love and be greater than we actually are. We are challenged to love with all of our hearts and all of our minds, but we struggle to do it. We sit at the foot of the cross on our own Fridays, waiting for our Sundays to come.
Tonight, in the last service I’ll get experience before Easter, I found myself sitting in the pew, propping myself up because I didn’t have the strength to sit upright on my own. When we knelt to pray, I laid my head on my arms because I didn’t have the energy to hold it up. And I as approached the wooden, rugged cross during the veneration of the cross, I knelt on the ground, and grasped the wood with both hands. I reflected on the events of this Holy Week, on the palpable desperation and weariness I have felt on this Good Friday and on all the other Fridays of my own journey.
And as I held on to that cross, I whispered to myself,
“It’s Friday. Sunday is coming. Sunday is coming. Sunday is coming.”