The sun is shining, and I just finished hiding eggs for Ezra to find in our improvised early Easter celebration. I’m sitting on my balcony, sipping homemade iced coffee, surveying my mom’s beautiful backyard, and feeling the sun radiate off my skin.
I think about how I’ll have a hundred new freckles and a sunburn soon and how I really should get up and put on sunscreen, but it’s so nice to feel warm after what felt like a 74-month-long winter. It is so beautiful. But then I try to take a deep breath, and the grief and anxiety remind me of their presence like an unforgiving corset.
Oh yeah. This.
The sadness has just felt inescapable lately. Everywhere I look, it’s reminders of my broken family and broken dreams and broken heart. In 5 minutes, I can drive through my town and pass the home I grew up in and the house I hoped to build a love and a life in and the funeral home where I wept over my brother’s body.
Like I said—inescapable.
In this season, I was determined to be done being sad and grieving, and move on to a hope-filled, positive, life-building phase. I was going to go find a new community and put down new roots and spend my weekends traveling and visiting coffee shops and hiking state parks…
…enter a global pandemic and quarantine.
So much for those plans. Even in my house, I’ve been pacing around like a caged animal, running through all my preferred distractions. The list goes something like: watch tv, scroll on my phone, eat, drink, write, nap, exercise, take care of the dog and the child, repeat, repeat, repeat.
I have been running and refusing to let sadness have its say.
But all the while I feel a question humming steadily in the background like white noise:
Why are you fighting this grief so hard?
Often there will be one day during Holy Week that resonates with me more than others. Some years it’s the joy and victory and hope of Easter Sunday, some years it’s the quiet waiting and the doubt of Saturday, and I didn’t even know what Maundy Thursday was until a couple years ago because #raisedevangelical but I’m sure there will be a time for that too.
This year, though. Oh this year it’s Good Friday.
In all of the grief and darkness and ache.
And I won’t lie: I hate it.
But also? I’m tired of running from it. I’m tired of pretending that the grief isn’t there or isn’t necessary. So even if I’m fidgeting and uncomfortable and so frustrated by feeling weak, I’ll let this sink in. I’ll let the grief have it’s due.
And isn’t that what Good Friday is about? The necessity of death and grief in this story?
I’ve decided I’m not going to leap to the cheery, victorious, life-changing Easter Sunday end just yet.
No, I think I need Good Friday. That reality seems undeniable.
I do trust that there will be a Sunday morning and that the sun will come up. And I know there will still be many moments of joy and breaths of fresh air in the middle of everything, like this beautiful day today.
But some seasons are marked by pain. I think we’re all experiencing this in one way or another.
We sure go to great lengths to deny this pain, don’t we? We use whatever means necessary: artificially with projects or food or endorphins or substances. Or mentally, through denial or toxic positivity or spreading conspiracy theories that doubt the experts. Anything to pretend we’re not experiencing all this anguish and fear.
But what would happen if we just accepted it? If we stopped the running and ignoring and numbing and just let this be hard?
It’s ok to not skip ahead to Sunday just yet. It’s ok not to jump to the “he is risen!” and the “look they recovered from the virus!” right away. In fact, I think it stunts our growth and our ability to love well when we skip the painful part. It’s ok to take a break from the positive spins and just acknowledge that we’re worried or scared or hurting.
It’s scary, but it also makes me wonder: Is our faith big enough to not skip over this part? Can we allow ourselves to just grieve? Can we, in our own small way, be like Jesus was on this day—misunderstood, left behind, scared, in pain, vulnerable, alone? Or are we too strong, too put-together for that?
It’s not very American to leave things ugly and messy and weak-feeling instead of proud and strong and positive. But my Jesus couldn’t opt-out of his suffering, and if we’re actually honest, neither can we.
It feels overwhelming, all of the worry and fear. This grief is so deep.
And truthfully, it should be.
The enormous value of relationships or love or hope or dreams demands deep grief when they are lost. And honestly, I think the ability to really experience the losses is the only thing that expands and softens our hearts enough to really experience love.
Glennon Doyle writes in an excerpt from her new book, Untamed:
“I am in the ache and suddenly I understand that I am here with everyone who has ever lived and ever loved and ever lost. Right here, inside the ache, with everyone who has ever welcomed a child or held the hand of a dying grandmother or said good-bye to a great love. I am here, with all of them. Inside the ache is the ‘We.’ We can do hard things, like be alive and love deep and lose it all, because we do these hard things alongside everyone who has ever walked the earth with her eyes, arms, and heart wide open.
The ache is where you go alone to meet the world.
The ache is love.
The ache was never warning me: ‘This ends. So leave.’
She was saying: ‘This ends. So stay.’”
This is so hard, my friends. In a million ways.
It’s ok if you’re struggling right now.
We grieve big losses because of big love.
So come sit next to me,
in your heart, need be
Huddled in close, by spirit
And feel the pain.
Let it burn and weigh
Let it take what it takes
Let the fears run rampant for a moment
And don’t try to smother them
In fitness or in food or in work or in drink
Quiet the noise
So you can hear the song grief needs to play
Listen like a loving mother to their frantic child
for a tender moment
Sunday will come
But let Friday have its say.
We won’t ever know the heights of joy
without paying the price
of this worthy ache.