Yesterday was Good Friday.
Some of us know exactly where we fit in the holy week story. Know exactly how we feel and why. It is visceral. Pumps fast through our veins because we anticipate. We know the ending, and it is unbelievable!
“He is risen!” someone says.
“He is risen, indeed!” we answer.
Maybe I’ve never been able to trust so easily, to be so sure.
Everywhere I turn, my brothers and sisters are speaking confident, holy-sounding things. Profound things. So many things that thumbing through Twitter makes me feel dizzy and bogged down with metaphors and symbolism and poetic, deep thoughts that pretend to be new. The words are, in the end, proclamations about what you did, how you did it, and why it makes sense for us then and now. The steadiness and clarity usher in enthusiastic agreement and social media “likes.”
This is where I begin to notice my lost-ness; in the midst of heightened remembrance and growing expectancy, sometimes I feel absolutely nothing at all.
Then there’s more talk and more talk and more. We go back and forth about what it will and must look like for us to share your good news message with people who either haven’t heard, haven’t cared to hear, or won’t know they care until suddenly they do.
Some of us are speaking your God-man self into today’s culture. We speculate about how you’d move about during these times, what you’d focus on if you were here again in flesh. Maybe our theories are correct.
And maybe sometimes when we claim to be speaking on your behalf, we’re really just speaking our flawed opinions using your name. We may be your ambassadors, but we’ve all got to be at least a little bit wrong about what you’d say and do right now. If we weren’t, wouldn’t we be you?
We’ve seen you write quietly in the dirt in one moment and flip tables in another. The only truly safe things to project about our relationship with you?
1) You’ll always be good and right, and
2) either now or eventually, we’ll want you to act out your goodness and rightness our way.
We always want our revolution, don’t we? The people in your time did, and they thought you’d bring it. We take our belief in you to mean you’ll somehow agree with us. The mighty sword, whether physical or spiritual, must look like this and this because of that or that. Our passion to fight reflects a good desire, a proper response to evil in many ways, but it also gets us in trouble when misdirected.
We inevitably slip up somewhere, become torn, become incongruent. We forget who we are, who you are. Our words will shout, “Praise you Jesus, our Lord! We’ll follow you anywhere!” while our actions will begin to whisper, “He’s dead after all. Let’s go.”
So in the midst of all this holy week talk, I am feeling stirred but silent. I’m quite certain I’m disillusioned and cynical and tired – not with you, but with everything and everyone else. The whole world seems to be on fire right now and no one can agree about why or how to stop it. I want to be a part of bringing the cool water of heaven, but more often than not, I’ve no idea where to begin. How to move. What to do next or why.
I work hard to get into the know, to be a part of the communities that are doing the heaven-to-earth thing, but it never goes well according to my own inner dialogue. My insecurities get loud. I want to join in the story, to take ownership of this death and resurrection, to help others do the same. But it’s not so easy when I’m not sure where I fit or what I actually believe.
Today, I could write 1,000 different statements about what you went through on Good Friday, how you overcame it all by Easter, and what this means for us according to what I’ve learned. The majority, although I believe them in my mind, would probably feel contrived to my heart. Suddenly I’d seem a conveyer belt to myself, carrying along and robotically spitting out the platitudes we’ve all grown so accustomed to.
I want more than this, Lord. I don’t want platitudes or all the nice things we say. I want something authentic. Not fake authentic, but real authentic – the kind that doesn’t need to announce itself as such. It is something that flows directly from the heart, and it is unashamed.
My honesty about all this is uncomfortable, but it’s what I have to give. In so many corporate worship circles (which is a gross phrase, but indicative of what I’m talking about), there is little permission for honesty, little permission to be in process. As you know, we prefer group-think and formulas instead. I imagine such order makes us feel in control, powerful, safe. I imagine it makes you feel boxed in and missed.
To be clear, it isn’t that I don’t believe you are True.
I do believe, Jesus. Oh how I do.
I just don’t believe I am worthy to speak about you, that I have any ground to stand on. This feeling is not Ghandi-like humility, but a familiar worry that ties my tongue. The worry of being wrong. The worry of humiliation. The worry of misrepresenting you. Perhaps it’s a healthy worry, or rather, a healthy caution. But when I do speak, I doubt my own words, even if I feel they come from you. It’s what I do, I guess, and it sucks, because it collides with my deepest desire.
I want to know that I know that I know.
Not so I can boast, but so I can rest in you.
And, maybe what today needs is surrender. Maybe I surrender to exactly where I am. Give up on the joining and the proclamations for now. For this moment, anyway. I figure if you took the time to show Thomas your wounds, you won’t mind my questions.
All of us must find a way to make sense of you eventually. Even those who refuse to believe must focus on you long enough to explain you away. So real are you that every human who has heard your story must acknowledge it, must do something with your claim to be God, must come to a decision about you, be it apathy, outright denial, or confident belief.
I have chosen to believe, yet as I told you, I still feel lost sometimes. I still search for something. Where, Jesus, do I belong? Where do I belong in your story?
Am I the one who counts my silver and kisses your cheek?
Am I a fisherman? A rock upon whom you build your Church?
Am I your mother, faithful to you before your birth and during your death?
Am I placing palm leaves before you, making a way for you?
Am I yelling for Barabbas to be released?
Am I gripping a Pharisaical hierarchy with all my strength?
Am I Pilate’s wife, waking to a dream of you?
Am I a criminal hanging beside you?
Am I summoned to help carry your cross?
Am I flogging your bloody back?
Am I tucked away in the safety of my home, afraid?
Am I the disciple whom you loved?
Am I the honored woman? The first to see you alive again?
Am I all of these people or none of them?
And alas, it is 2,000 years later. How in the world can I testify as a witness to an event for which I was not present?
Jesus, you tell me to share the good news, but I did not see it. How can I know that I know that I know it is true? Isn’t this always the million dollar question? Hasn’t it always been?
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20: 27-28
I ask again, where do I find myself in the story that I might know where I stand with you? I find myself everywhere and nowhere as of late, spinning in what I’m supposed to feel, reeling in what I’m supposed to say. I can’t possibly be Thomas, for he grabbed onto you, blessed enough to place his own hands on your wounds. Blessed enough to see for himself how very real you were, how very true it all was and is.
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20: 29
At the reading of these words, you remind me of what I have witnessed, not only with my eyes, but with my heart.
Before I met you, I worked tirelessly in my own strength with my own gods to attempt a resurrection of my dead self a million times over. But the moment I began to follow you, to really follow you, was the moment I began to experience the real thing.
Is this not proof enough for you? you ask.
That you were dead but now you are alive?
Is this not what you know that you know that you know?
Is this not what I have done?
Is this not enough to speak about?
Is this not where you’ll find me?
You are never as lost as you feel.
I am right here, beloved, where I have always been.
And so it seems I am one of countless believers who are blessed in your story, a part of it all along.
Again you remind me that when I’ve no idea where I belong, when I’m disillusioned and cynical and tired, I need only to remember who you are in order to be found again. What better knowing is there from which to speak?
My Lord and My God! I’ll say. This, the most holy-sounding thing I can muster during holy week, is enough.
See you Sunday.