I know where grief lives inside my body. I can put my hand over the spot. It’s below my left breast, pretty much where I place my hand to say the pledge of allegiance. Grief moved in there years ago when I lost my father. It took hold of me and squeezed. It hurt. My heart hurt. I lay on the floor, gasping, and holding my chest, and I thought, “This is what it feels like.” Since that introduction, grief wakes up in the face of all sorts of sad events: when loved ones die, when good friends lose a child, when we say goodbye to a beloved pet. That spot in my heart stabs and aches. It stabs and aches on Good Friday.
People say that there are “Good Friday Christians” and “Easter Sunday Christians”. I am a “Good Friday Christian”. The grief I carry in my heart needs an outlet, and that outlet is the passion of Christ and the veneration of the cross. For me, without that, the rest of the Christian faith would be just false cheer and whistling past a graveyard. It would be hope and rainbows and magic promises. Good Friday is when sh*t gets real.
Good Friday is when we all cry “Crucify Him!” It is when our righteous indignation and anger result in the death of God. We participate in the passion to remind us that we, too, are capable of horrible acts. We participate in the story so we recognize our own tendency to screw things up, to miss the mark, and to hurt ourselves and others. And we grieve. We grieve for our own brokenness and the pain that it has wrought in our lives. But we are not alone in our grief. We listen to the Lord, crucified by his own people, by our own selves, cry out in pain, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me!” And that is when the grief in my heart joins the love of God.
God sees me while I sit and worship, while I sing, “Where you there when they crucified my Lord?” God sees me as I kiss the wooden feet of Jesus on the cross. It isn’t easy to be seen as I am and still be loved. It means I have to be honest about my failures and forgive myself for them. And, as I forgive myself, I must forgive those who also failed me. It means that the universal, catholic love and grace of God that sees me as I am and still loves me, also loves every other person, just as they are. For that sacrifice was made for each and every individual one of us, just as we are. We all cried “Crucify” and we are all loved.
As I sit in the darkened, bare church, listening to the Gospel reading, I am overcome, again and again. In the image of Jesus’s final sacrifice for all of mankind, my grief and the grief of the world is bound by love. God-made-man, the divine incarnate, gave up his power to the evil of the world, laid down his life in scandalous surrender, crying out for his God. Within in this exquisite pain, there is no rationalization, no mental gymnastics, no search for meaning. I weep, my throat closes up, and my heart breaks open, one more time. The only real thought in my head is, “make me worthy of this sacrifice, Jesus.” Jesus saved me, with all my pettiness, selfishness, and brokenness. I long to be worthy of the immense gift of God’s love. As I sit crying in the dark, God holds me in my grief, stitching my scars together with love.
I know where grief lives inside my body. It lives in my heart, surrounded by love.
Blessed Good Friday.