Good Friday

I ducked out of work for a few hours midday yesterday to attend my church’s Good Friday service.  On my way there I thought about how funny it was that I was playing hooky from work…to go to church.  That may go down in the books as the most wholesome rule-breaking ever.

When I got to the service the sun was shining and there were so many friends I wanted to chat with, but as I entered the sanctuary the lights were dimmed to one notch above pitch black, I could barely see where my friends were sitting, and I was confronted with large signs asking me to turn off my phone and maintain silence.  I was honestly a bit irritated – I was in a happy, buoyant mood and being forced into a somber milieu wasn’t my idea of a good time. I was playing hooky from work after all- shouldn’t this be fun!?!? Where were the mimosas?

As I entered the sanctuary and sat in the quiet dark for a few minutes, though, what I felt was a profound sense of relief.  Relief in the midst of a workday marked by staring at a computer screen and having conversations and being productive it felt like sweet relief to pause, breathe and just be.  To not have any responsibilities to be cheerful and professional an “on.”  The longer I sat in the dark, the more I felt connected to myself and to the truth simmering just below the surface – even on a day when the sun is shining and I’m in a jolly mood, there is plenty in this world to grieve.

I reflected on my week and the conversations I had – about a friend’s dad who is on hospice care, about another friend’s job situation that is oppressive and toxic, about the endless news cycle reminding us of the brokenness of the world.  I was reminded of the truth that even on the sunniest of spring Fridays, there is still so much darkness.

Now I recognize that sounds like a major bummer, but hear me out.  The entire point of Good Friday is that even though we know Easter is coming – even though we know that resurrection and hope and life triumphing over death is on it’s way – it is still important and worthwhile to sit in the dark and mourn.

I thought about all the seasons of darkness I’ve seen play out in the lives of people I love.  The death of a beloved parent. The pain of a marriage coming apart. The unspeakable anguish of losing of a child.  I thought about all of those stories written in the dark night of the soul. The tears, the anguish, the anger, the sense of all hope being lost.

And then I thought about the light.  I thought about the joy of the birth of a child after years of infertility.  I thought about the true love that restored faith in marriage. I thought about the new lives being born into a family that has experienced so much loss.

And I realized something.  You can’t fully appreciate the beauty of the light until you’ve sat in the dark.  There is a depth to the joy, the gratitude, the feeling of the sun sinking deep into your very bones that’s only possible when you’ve spent some time sitting in the dark.  

I felt deeply grateful in that moment for the ritual of Good Friday, for the built in rhythm of a day not to pretend to be somber when life is going great, but to reconnect with the truth that the brokeness and sadness of this world is always there, even on the sunniest of days.

And yet.

And yet that darkness and brokenness isn’t the end of the story.  “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” John 1:5.  

I’ve spent the year in a fellowship program reading about and debating every possible theological issue, which has been rich and good, but I deeply appreciate the way the days leading up to Easter recenter my faith on what matters most, what I hold as the truest truth, which is simply this:

Our world is so broken.  Systems are broken, institutions are broken [the church very much included], governments are broken, communities and families and our individual hearts are so so broken.  This world is – to use a super erudite theological term – a hot freakin’ mess. And yet the hope of Easter is that the brokeness doesn’t get the final word. The hope of Easter is that the light shines in the darkness, God has defeated death and Love wins.  Love always wins.

So this Easter weekend I am going to spend some time sitting in the darkness – letting myself feel the weight of the pain and grief and injustice and sorrow that mark the human experience – so that I can more fully experience the light, with a heart of gratitude for the God who has defeated the dark.

All the Single Ladies

I just returned from a wonderful, heart-filling weekend in Portland celebrating a dear friend’s wedding and having a blast reuniting with friends I hadn’t seen in ages. As I got into my Lyft at the airport on Friday, the driver and I were making friendly chit chat and he asked what brought me to Portland.

“I’m here to celebrate my friend’s wedding!” I replied joyfully.  

His response was full of incredulity and stopped me in my tracks.

“You’re here for a wedding…by yourself? No husband, no boyfriend?”

Now there are a lot of ways to interpret what he said, but all of them lead me to the same emotional place  – which is white hot freakin’ rage.

First of all, don’t ask a woman who is riding alone in your car if she has a husband or boyfriend. I immediately felt unsafe  [was he hitting on me? was this conversation about to take a turn that was going to leave me feeling uncomfortable – like so many of my conversations with “nice” seeking men sadly tend to do?].  Even if he wasn’t hitting on me – and I didn’t get that vibe – what the actual f**k dude? Is it 1950? Is it seriously that shocking that a woman would go to a wedding without a romantic partner? I am 100% confident that if I was a man going to a wedding by myself he wouldn’t have said a thing.  Also, do I need a male chaperone? Are you seriously defining me by my proximity to a man? Again, what the actual f**k?

I have been told [mostly be men] that a comment like that is a compliment – that what the Lyft driver was trying to say was “I can’t believe someone as great as you is single!” Even if that was his intent, I’m calling bullshit on that because the underlying assumption is still that my worth and value is tied to a man “choosing” me as romantic partner.

I’m extra sensitive to this implication because the cultural messaging runs deep that a woman’s worth is tied to her relationship status, and to be single is synonymous with being unwanted, unloved, unworthy.  I know so many kick-ass women who have stayed in relationships with extremely meh men out of fear that nothing better will come along.  Out of a screwed up belief that it’s better to be coupled and unhappy than single and to write your own destiny. I have also been that woman, wondering if it’s better to stay in a relationship that’s just ok to escape what culture has taught me is a fate worse than death for women – singleness.

I was angry at his sexist remark, and also angry because it was yet another instance where I was reminded that I could be “put in my place” so damn quickly.  As in, reminded that I am female and that somehow carries this potential for an emotional smackdown to hit me out of nowhere at any moment, as I try to simply live in the world.  Like a few weekends ago as I was enjoying a rare 75 degree day in SF, walking home from church in a sundress, blissing out to the feel of the sun’s warm rays on my bare legs and shoulders. In a 30 second span, two different men hollered at me  – one from his car “Hey Baby” and another from the street “Hey Beautiful.” My enjoyment of the day changed instantly to fear, rudely awakened from my blissful enjoyment of the sunshine, and on high alert to make sure the words didn’t turn into anything more threatening.  I was happy, and then I was afraid – because I dared to want to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. I also felt shame and self-doubt, like it was my fault – because I knew that when I put on that dress that morning there was a high probability that street harassment would happen. I knew the tradeoff for enjoying the warmth of the sun’s rays on my bare legs was emotional exposure – and that breaks my heart.  Because I guarantee that no man who was strolling the sidewalk in his shorts and polo shirt that day had that thought or fear. And that makes me angry. And sad. And deeply exhausted. And then I think about how much privilege I have as a white, straight, cisgender, upper-middle-class woman and how bad it is even with all of that privilege and try to imagine how bad it must be for anyone who doesn’t have all of the protective armor of that privilege – and I get even more angry. And sad. And exhausted. #allthefeelings.

Back to the singleness thing – to be clear, I’m not single because I’m anti-marriage or anti-relationship [though I 1000%  – not a typo, literally one thousand percent – support any woman who doesn’t choose to be partnered or married. You do you, friends #allthesingleladies. I’m single because I haven’t yet found someone I want to build a life with, based on shared purposes and values – and I’m not willing to buy into the lie that I am a less valuable human because I don’t have a plus one.

At my friend’s wedding ceremony this weekend, my eyes filled with happy tears – not because she was getting married, but because she was marrying a wonderful man whom she loves and who treats her so well.   I was happy not because she has checked some life box that is required for women, not because she is now partnered and that makes her intrinsically more valuable or worthy.  No, I was happy because she had clearly found someone she loves with all her heart and who loves her right back – and together they were committing to build a life together based on shared values of love of family and friends, kindness, deep faith and a heart for others.  I was happy because I was in the presence of true love – and that is always something worth celebrating.

So, I hope that I too find a wonderful man, someone I love who loves me right back, someone who wants a true partnership and to build a life together that is about much more than just saving each other from singleness. I pray that I get to experience that depth of love and joy, and deep peace from knowing that I am making a decision to enter a relationship based not on fear, but on love.

I pray that day comes, but until it does I’m going to keep flying to friend’s weddings solo and busting a move on the dance floor and sharing in their joy. I’m going to to keep wearing whatever I damn well please and soaking up the sun’s rays and be filled with gratitude for sunshine and this beautiful world. I’m going to keep living this one precious life I have to the full, and thanking God for all the love that’s already in it.