In the Christian faith, Good Friday is the time we mourn and grieve. It is a time when we recognise the realities of death, pain and suffering.
The Gospels describe the Divine made incarnate in Jesus partaking in humankind's suffering, dying a premature and undeserved death. The Divine does not "rise above" suffering, or get rid of it, but experiences it fully, crying out in despair as he dies, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It is not like as described by motivational speakers of our day, who claim that "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional". Those of us who have experienced true suffering will find such sentiments shallow and non-resonant.
This is one of the reasons why the faith of my childhood still resonates with me. It does not deny the realities of life. It speaks of a deeper truth that modern positivism of "positive vibes only" cannot.
Many in the world tell us to avoid these realities by numbing ourselves, with unhealthy vices (drugs, drink, consumerism) or healthy activities (work, progress, even service). They say, "why waste energy on the past? We can't change it, so let's just move on." This doesn't work. Our emotions and trauma cannot be ignored and put aside. They persist and haunt us, like ghosts, affecting our minds and behaviour.
"If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it." - Richard Rohr
One of the things I love about the Easter story and the Christian faith is that there is a lot of space made for suffering and grieving. In fact, out of the 66 (ish) books in the Bible, there's a whole book called Lamentations. A whole book dedicated to expressing grief and sorrow (and there's a lot of this throughout the other books in the Bible too). So according to this ancient tradition, there is use in crying over spilt milk. Because suffering is real and it hurts.
Lament (n): a passionate expression of grief or sorrow
But that's not the final word. The suffering described in the Easter story is not endless death and endless suffering without hope.
Easter is about celebrating life, new life, which comes through and despite death. Jesus came back to life, after being buried in a tomb for two days. It is about recognising that this, too, shall pass. It is recognition of the beautiful paradox that in the midst of suffering there is joy - true joy that doesn't deny suffering but encompasses it. That we have joy and we will have joy once again.
The message seems very fitting especially in these troubled times of Covid-19. In the midst of the undeniable horror that we're facing as a collective, we need to be able to mourn and grieve for what we've lost and who we've lost. For the terrible responses that have been exhibited by humans and authorities around the world. For the uncertainty that we face ahead of us - financially and otherwise.
What came after the resurrection was a new order. In the Christian story, it marked a turning point in history - an ushering in of a new era. An era of the "kingdom of God", which we experience now and look forward to in the future. Drawing parallels with the situation we find ourselves in now, it seems like we're buried away in the tomb. I'd like to invite us, in this incubation period, to examine what kind of future awaits us on the other side. What kind of world we want to wake up to and build together.
The old makes way for the new. It's up to us to determine what this "new" looks like.
Wishing you a very happy Easter period.
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