This post was also shared on mbird.com.
“I have to be honest…I hadn’t planned on giving up quite this much for Lent.” Reads one of the thousands or millions of memes COVID-19 has blessed us with. That one is my favorite.
I feel this one rather intimately and self-pityingly. I don’t usually give up anything for Lent. The last time I tried was three years ago. I decided to give up post-dinner snacks and I found myself enjoying a 10 pm cookie no later than Ash Wednesday, the very first day of Lent, having completely forgotten about my idea. I didn’t resume.
This Lent has been especially confusing for me. Lent is supposed to be a time of reflection and confession and preparation. To be frank, in this unusual and rather challenging season I have not wanted to reflect. I have not wanted to confess. I no longer have anything to prepare for.
It’s been confusing.
How much more fitting, I thought, if we were experiencing Advent right now. A time of expectation and hope for what’s coming. That would be so lovely and poetic.
“Um, God? If you had to allow a global pandemic to happen don’t you think it could have been at a better time for me you know, like, symbolically?” Yikes.
At some point, between the confusion and discontentment and asking silly and petty questions of God, something slid in, and that something was Saturday.
This Saturday. That Saturday sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
In normal times Christians spend the Saturday before Easter grocery shopping and preparing our tables and ironing our Easter dresses. We spend that Saturday with the understanding in mind that Easter is coming. Resurrection is coming.
Jesus’ disciples spent that Saturday very, very differently. Their understanding is that he is dead in the traditional sense of the concept – like gone forever. I imagine there were moments of gut-wrenching, gasping, heart-wrecking sobs. Their entire lives came to a halt. The man and his mission to which they had dedicated three years had turned out, it seemed, to be a sham. They had watched one of their best friends, their rabbi, be tortured and die.
But the disciples had been given hints that this was not Jesus’ end. Job and Hosea both contain references to a living redeemer, Hosea 6 even referencing a rescue on the third day. Jonah spent three days in the belly of the whale and Jesus later makes a comparison between Jonah and himself. Jesus gets precisely clear about what will happen to him in Matthew 16. He flat out tells his disciples that he will die and later be raised to life. No symbolism, no metaphor, no parable. He literally could not have been more clear.
Yet it’s obvious that the disciples are not convinced of Jesus’ impending resurrection. We know that they believed he was truly dead because when they see him resurrected they don’t believe it. And when Mary goes to his tomb on the third day she brings spices meant for a dead body not a live man.
I do not believe for a second, though, that the disciples had forgotten all of those prophecies and those extremely literal words of Jesus about his resurrection. No, I imagine they spent Saturday experiencing a whole lot of grief and also a lot of doubt. Could those things be true? Could he be who he says he is? I imagine they remembered those conversations, those teachings, those prophecies. I imagine they asked themselves a lot of hard questions. But they did not believe it. In the face of the tragedy and trauma of the day before they resolved to doubt.
It feels familiar, in a sense, for me. Things right now are not at all, not even a little bit, how I expected them to be. And I find myself feeling a lot like the disciples on Saturday.
I remember the promises of God but I have a lot of doubts and questions, too. I bet they’re a lot like those of the disciples:
“Even after all those promises you made, I just can’t imagine those can be fulfilled after all of this.”
“I don’t understand how you could have meant for all of this pain and sorrow and wretchedness to happen.”
“I don’t see the space for redemption and renewal. All I can see is that nothing is as I thought it would be.”
I give the disciples grace. I can’t know how I would have responded that Saturday. I give myself grace. We talk a lot about the valiant choices we would make in hard times but when we’re faced with an actual hard time like this one we don’t always make choices we’re proud of.
We’re living in a Saturday space. I’m realizing that while I thought I wanted Advent God was really blessing me with Lent. With Saturday. With the promise of Easter.
I don’t know when our Easter will come. I don’t know when we’ll resurrect group gatherings and family reunions and school and normal life. This season is our Saturday. I pray we will extend grace to ourselves as Jesus extended grace to them. But I also pray we will learn from them, and remember the promises and the prophecies that after death comes resurrection, renewal, and hope.