For most of my life I’ve navigated my way through hardships by suppressing most feelings I was uncomfortable with, and sulking at the mercy of the ones I couldn’t. Most clearly, I remember the week in June of 2016 when my grandfather passed away and a few days later I left with a busload of kids for a week at church camp. I faked my way into camp-levels of hype all week until it was time to return home and I snapped at the normal end-of-camp laments coming from the kids. I could grieve or I could be happy, I could not do both.
A few months later I was working through my grief with a therapist. They informed me I couldn’t selectively numb my emotions, refusing to engage grief while trying to carry on my usual levels of pep. “If you’re flattening out one feeling, you’re flattening them all,” they gentle pressed.
Rude. Also, right.
Good Friday calls our attention to the most horrific of scenes, the moment when time stands still. The moment when the dream of a liberating messiah finally, fully, falls apart. Many disciples flee in fear or disappointment or disillusionment, only the women remain.
The crowd calls for Barabbas, we always call for Barabbas. The way of Jesus is too slow, too painful. It’s a path that invites us to life abundant–grief and joy–but we are people who know best how to numb and flatten. We prefer distraction to agony, and the Cross leads us to the latter.
Jesus is condemned. Dressed up in robes, and crowned in thorns, mocked and spit on. The God who lovingly formed each of these soldiers, who numbered the hairs on their heads, now bleeding and broken, the subject of their abuse.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but we neither recognized nor received him.
All of time holds its breath, and also? There’s nothing really all that special about this scene.
Rome had crucified many men before and would go on to crucify many more.
People die every day, many of us have never been so aware of that as we are right now.
Can you engage the fulness of tonight? The weight of grief? The pit that grows steadily larger in the pit of your stomach till it threatens to swallow you whole? The darkness that swallows every seed of hope you have ever planted, and the nourishment you somehow find even in that place of death?
This is the space we find ourselves in on this night. The unthinkable has happened. This moment is too terrible to even name. Yet we dare to call it “good.”
All of the hopes we had built up, all of the moments when our dreams seemed to be within our grasp, have crumbled and fallen, and hope slips through our fingers like water, unable to grasp.
And if we dare to look down maybe we’ll yet find that we’re floating in the water we were unable to hold. That the thing that we lost hold of is somehow, someway now holding on to us. Can we show up shattered and open? Expansive in our grief and in our uncertainty of what is possible–an that this lack of assurance could apply to worst-case scenarios or wildest dreams.
Today is impossible to hold, and so we are invited to expand because that’s what love does.
Love notices. Love weeps. Love shows up. Love breaks open. Love reaches wide.
Love walks toward our greatest fear, the thing we cannot imagine and insists that, though we have to go, we will never go alone.
And I still cannot understand it, but I dare once again to try to expand.