But for those stunned by the violence of His death, the now silent void, the agony of internal regrets, the wilting hope and arduous waiting and futile wondering, this day is hell. Sorrow, ambiguity, second-guessing, denial, replaying the scene over and over again...
"What if we could have done differently?"
"If only we knew...If only I had listened"
"If only I...
- ...hadn't waited to tell him I love him
- ...hadn't fought with the others about who was the greatest when he was suffering
- ...hadn't fallen asleep in prayer
- ...hadn't deserted him and fled."
Without knowing the end of the story - it'd be easy to be angry at Pilate, the Pharisees, Judas, and even Jesus and God the Father who "willed" such a horrendous obedience. Or anger at myself for all I wish I would have done. Holy Saturday, it seems, is therapeutically designed to give us space to take a real, hard, honest look at our souls, our regrets, the things we wish we would have done differently, the places of unrest in our souls. To live this day knowing and jumping ahead to the end of the story robs us of the sanctifying work of grieving and, in modern AA language, an opportunity to admit our weaknesses as we take an honest, fearless moral inventory of our lives. We placate our pain, and our redemption, by bypassing the tomb.
But today's the day to feel the lostness of my life without him. To honestly admit my struggles - my addictions to knowledge, food, affirmation, comfort, reputation, control, my savings account, privacy, measuring my success by the important and reputable people whom I know, busyness, numbing myself with media (fb, twitter, netflix, email, blogging), red wine and chocolate etc.
It is a day to admit my powerlessness and meager attempts to manage my human condition which prefers to worship me over all else. It is a day to realize how often I live in denial each time I avoid taking a courageous moral inventory because "at least I'm not as bad as him..." It is a day to believe (though, Lord, help my disbelief) that there is a Higher Power, a Greater Plan, a need to hold on to any thread of hope that's left outside of myself.
I'd much rather work in my garden, have a picnic in a park, live life as "normal."
But "normal" isn't an option today.
I can try to deny, hide, justify and rationalize my humanity's foibles...busying myself with something else or say I'll get around to this later or forget all this morbid introspection and jump ahead to the good stuff of tomorrow's victory.
But if I didn't know tomorrow is coming...that tomorrow would bring not only relief, but change everything as I now know it...you, I, would be sober with our reality, the very reality we try to escape by our addictions and busyness. We'd take this day to feel deeply the extent of our misgivings, our questions, our restlessness, our mistakes. The silence of the tomb scares us. A fearless moral inventory is for other addicts...I don't have a problem. I can quit anytime...
But tomorrow will mean nothing, if I do not, today, let the deep scarring within my humanity reveal my need for a Savior. I must be aware of the ways I live in illusions of control, knowledge, and the priorities of my agendas. I need to be willing to surrender my need to know, control and figure out defend and procure a life of my choosing.
On this side of the resurrection I can go there because I know Someone Else knows how to sympathize with my weakness and offers mercy and grace in my time of need. I am not alone. I have no idea how the disciples endured these hours!
If ever there was a time of need, it is when Jesus has seemingly disappeared into a cold, dark, musty grave hewn in the side of a hill...and his followers who gave their all to become like them are left to wonder what life is really about. All those arguments about who would be greatest don't seem so important anymore.
If I do not let my "self" - with all its fears, vulnerabilities, idiosyncrasies, dreams, illusions, preoccupations and ego-driven propensities toward jealousy, winning, being right, protection and control be crucified with Christ - I will not ever experience the reality Paul described in Col 3:3 and Gal 2:20. How can my life be hidden with Christ if I do not let myself die and be crucified with him?
or as Eugene Peterson's Message puts it:
If we didn't know tomorrow was coming, we would live today distressed. And the miracle of Christ's resurrection would utterly undo us in the morning, because it would leave us with all our regrets delivered! We would run to the tomb, to see for ourselves, that real life, given to us in His death and resurrection, is our greatest gift! But unless a kernel of wheat dies...it cannot bear fruit (Jn. 12:24).
Where is your distress leading you?