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 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.