Were I a better Christian, lent would evoke gratitude and a profound awareness of all that God has done for me, for us all. Easter actually is my favorite holiday. And while I feel like I need to say that my favor flows certainly from the hope intrinsic in the resurrection, the deeply seeded belief that new life indeed rises where all seems dead and hopeless…I think in reality, Easter is my favorite holiday because it openly faces that which is gruesome, and hard, and painful. For this season, we needn’t pretend things are better than they are. Vapid facebook posts may be ignored and being fully present is not only accepted, it is encouraged. Or should be. There is no resurrection Sunday without death. There is no joyous “Christos Anesti” with the exuberant response of “Alethos Anesti” if darkness had not settled in seemingly to drown the world in sorrow.
And so sorrow is what I recall today. It is the anniversary of the day my brother was killed. It is the before and after defining moment of my life. And oh so many years ago now, it was Easter Sunday as the hospital called to ask for someone to come offer identification. The body they had turned out to be that of his friend. The body I identified and then prayed for his sister knowing how hard that would be to have a brother, killed just as adult life seemed to be beginning. It was only a few minutes later I didn’t have to imagine that pain, I was ushered into a club I never wanted to enter. It changed me, it changed my parents, it changed the very ground underneath my feet. Resurrection was not going to happen for me that day.
And here we are, it is spring, and Easter is my favorite holiday even today. Palm Sunday is just around the corner and preparation are being made. The picture attached is of my dining table. My sweet husband surprised me with flowers today. A small reminder that in the midst of a day filled with dark memories, is beauty. A small reminder that when I can’t go get hope myself, he is willing to bring it to me. I wasn’t trying to make a statement setting them on the table in front of the cross. The cross is always there and the table was free of clutter. It was a convenience. That convenience however reminds me that where death resides, something stronger comes…it just may take time. Resurrection may not have happened that day for me so many years ago, and there are still plenty of days where grief surprises me and smacks me up side the head out of nowhere. But now, there are also days where a vase of flowers appears and surprises me just as much. The difference is that one brings a message of hope. Grieve… and know it is not the end of the story.
Do we even know how to grieve any more? or have we lost the ability or capacity to do so?
Save me O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters and a flood overflows me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched…Psalm 69:1-3
Scripture is filled with lament. Ironically, when it comes to heartache and conversations surrounding the church what I hear most is a move to pass swiftly beyond anything remotely uncomfortable and to be enveloped in comfort and hope for the future. It is almost as if we are afraid of sitting with the ache of grief. As if we are afraid to sit at the base of the cross. I hear this kind of move most often from adolescents. They are told that they are too young to know real sorrow. They are told that with experience they will learn how to find hope in all situations. They are told that they are in the easiest season of life and they should be grateful as the responsibilities and real life struggles haven’t yet begun.
I was in Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX when the Oklahoma City Bombing took place. We were close enough to have peers who had first hand connections but far enough away to still not fully get it. While being shocked in general what I recall most was being shocked at the iconic photo of a firefighter carrying a bloody infant in his arms. It doesn’t stand out to me for being so horrific, it stands out because I recall NOT being particularly impacted by the graphic nature of the photo. I had seen so many movies, shows and art where such things were depicted that by the time I was seeing the real thing, it seemed to just be a part of every day life, nothing out of the ordinary. But it was.
The Boston bombing took place a week ago. Since then there has been an explosion in West, TX and a shooting in a suburb of Seattle, WA. Not to mention dozens of local tragedies and worldwide horrors.
When I spoke with some teens this past weekend I was struck both by their knowledge of what had taken place in the last week and how “normal” they found it to be. There was no shock. There was no pondering God in this broken world. There was no grief over the loss of human life. They have seen and heard so much in their lifetimes that this is simply a part of the fabric of their worlds.
Nothing within me wants for adolescents to live in fear or struggle to cope with each new horrific incident. But I do want for them to know that this is real human life being lost. That those who were once breathing and now are not were created in the image of God just as they were. I want for them to know how to grieve and lament as part of the rhythm of life.
Perhaps we as adults need to figure out how to spend a little more time actually grieving and learning healthier coping mechanisms. For ourselves and so that we may pass on to the next generation a healthier way that maybe, just maybe doesn’t have to end in tragedy for an entire community.