I am writing this because I feel like it is time to open up a little about my life over the last few years and Holy Saturday felt like a really good time to speak my peace. I am writing this because I know other people feel the darkness and struggle too and we all need empathy and even more: hope.
My grandpas both died when I was very young. Between their deaths and other deaths I would closely experience, there were many, many years. For much of my life, I could blissfully ignore the reality or think about it in more abstract terms.
That changed over the last few years.
About 3 years ago, we made the decision to move back from Michigan to Ohio, primarily because my mother-in-law was dying of cancer. It was an incredibly difficult time for us, leaving the life we’d built there, most of the friends and acquaintances we had, and then coming to spend time with my mother-in-law, Jane, who was slowly suffering in ways that were so hard to watch. We felt so much like we should do something, but there was so little to do other than to be there. I knew I should be supporting my family, but instead I was in the worst depression and confusion I’ve experienced and I’m ashamed of how little “supporting” I did.
Then almost 2 years ago, in May of 2018, we were there as Jane passed.
The funeral was beautiful and uplifting and it was amazing to hear how many lives she had touched. It was wonderful to think that her suffering had ended and that now she was alive with Christ.
However, my grieving had just begun.
As I mentioned, I had hardly had to dwell on death before this. But now, it was here, front and center, and had just painfully stolen someone so precious to us.
Not only my emotions, but also my faith started to break under the toll.
Before this, I was used to the smaller areas of my faith being “deconstructed” and “reconstructed” through the journey of seminary and learning in general. But this time, my faith in its entirety was hard hit. Going to church and being around vocal Christians was difficult, for many months. While I could go into much more detail here of what I learned in this time, it isn’t what I want to focus on today.
I know many others who have similar stories in recent years of doubts, grief, and uncertainty.
For me, the journey of healing has taken time. Summarizing it, my fear and anger eventually gave way to sadness and the sadness eventually gained back a glimmer of hope and trust.
While a lot of Christian material didn’t “work” for me over this time, I wrestled with Andrew Peterson’s music, especially his “Resurrection Letters: Prologue & Vol 1” which came out right at this time. I found in it a broad understanding of the hope of Jesus mixed with the wavering and complex emotions we all experience.
This song (link below), in particular, hit me right where I was at.
This song pauses at the time when those who loved or wondered about Jesus — the disciples, Mary, Peter, and others — had now experienced something truly horrific. At the end of all his teachings and promises, it looked like tragedy was all that was left. And they were left to mourn, to wrestle, to doubt.
And while we, now, can look back at the Resurrection, in ways, we are still stuck on Saturday, not seeing with our eyes what we believe to be true. While I do believe Jane is together with Christ right now, I can’t see it with my eyes. While there is hope in my heart about Jane and the gospel message of hope in the resurrection for us all, like the disciples, my emotions wrestle with what is in front of me.
And this is where the step has to come to get from hope to faith. “God rested.” Evoking the entirety of the sabbath rest, the shalom, peace, the well working of a well created universe, ordered and ruled by its Creator, the “it is very good” at the end of the Creation story. Christians are called to have faith that behind the scenes God is still working today. What started with Jesus, the “firstfruits” of redemption, will be carried out in God’s redemption of the entire creation, that all will be made right and all will be well.
Before I can say the “He is risen indeed” of Easter morning, I must wrestle with the silence of today. Before I can believe that despite all suffering, God will make all things right, I have to put my faith in the moment of the silent, yet powerful working behind-the-scenes: Jesus resting in the tomb.