I hate the brutality of the cross. It’s a device of execution:
an electric chair
a firing squad
Recently I was at a Good Friday service where the songs were projected on an image that looked like splashing blood, Dexter style. It was difficult to stomach. I am so far removed from the idea of blood sacrifice that I struggle to make sense of the concept. Why is this what is required? Why does anyone have to die so others might live? Why does God operate in the economy of blood? The idea that a parent would do this to their child is even harder to wrap my mind around. I’m sure this made sense in an ancient culture where sacrifice of one for the good of many was important, but I live in 21st century America. We live for ourselves.
I am facing many deaths. Don’t make me look at another one.
I love Easter, all the pastels and flowers. Resurrection, rebirth, reconciliation, restoration, redo! All fresh life and potential. Usually, I want to jump to that, live in that all the time. This year, I find myself approaching Easter, and especially Good Friday, with apprehension. There is the cross again, complicated, looming, bloody. I desire to leap ahead not just philosophically, but in my life too. Can we skip to the good part? I am facing many deaths. Don’t make me look at another one. It has been a year of profound loss. We moved away from a community we loved. My community here (the one I grew up in and cherish) is dispersed and dismantled. We switched jobs twice in 6 months. We have lost friends to death and distance. Worse, there are those living that have disconnected simply because we disagree.
I have reinvisioned my life over and over again, and painfully watched each rendition languish. I struggle to find joy in my given identities: motherhood grates against me, I am a cold daughter, my partner worries about me. Once upon a time I was a teacher, a doula, a writer, not to mention the more recent failed career forays. I carry these lives, and all the people with me that I have ever loved. I miss them. I really do. Each person, each life, hangs on me: an underbelly of grief that grounds every day. There have been many deaths. Enough small deaths for me to look on my own, sometimes with longing.
I carry these lives, and all the people with me that I have ever loved.
Perhaps Jesus’ followers understood this as they gazed with horror at the cross. This was the death of all things for them. In churches we sing of resurrection, but they did not know resurrection at the cross. The death of Jesus was so much more to them. For Mary, the death of a child. For the Zealots, the death of a nation. For Peter and Judas, the death of their identity as disciples. None of it quietly slipped away from them, like the slow deaths I face. Jesus was ripped from them, leaving them terrified and running. As much as I want to skip this, and can be repulsed by the viciousness of the cross, I understand the grief. Did ancient Hebrews feel the same way about animal sacrifice? Symbolically laying down what was precious to them? I don’t like that death is a part of it, but death IS a part of it. Death is a part of my life.
As much as I want to skip this, and can be repulsed by the viciousness of the cross, I understand the grief.
The cross, terrible as it is, is the modern day symbol of grace. This is a rough transition for me. How can this be? Amidst all this gore, grace? But that is the core of the story: grace, tenderness, forgiveness, love. The idea that we can step beyond the cross, free. Free from all that entraps us.
Those that know me might call me an optimist. This is where I prefer to live, beyond the cross, accessing resurrection life today. I talk about accessing the eternal now. Hope rises in me despite myself, and I am usually a sap to its effervescence. This Easter season, my view is the reverse. I limp to the cross. I resent the hope in me because the reality is never like the sparkling vision embedded in my heart. This year, I can’t just skip merrily past the cross- I feel it, piercing me. I’m trying to unpack my grief and lay it here, and I realize I cannot. In a very real way, I am in need of a savior. I cannot go through this alone.
Hope rises in me despite myself, and I am usually a sap to its effervescence...I resent [it] because the reality is never like the sparkling vision embedded in my heart.
That image coming to a space of grief, heavy with all I carry, trying to lay it down, that is powerful to me. This is me! Exhausted, weeping, unsure where next to go, in love with all and lonely. Do any of you feel this way? Here the cross makes sense. Here, I want to hear "Grace" whisper over me.
If you are unable to see new life yet, you are not alone. If you are facing your own deaths, even the death of your own religion, your childhood, your identity, your darlings, you are not alone. If you can joyfully skip into life past the cross, I am happy for you! Be gentle with those of us who have circled back again and again.
Grace be with you.
Andy shares his story and how to compassionately approach praying for others.