Now that Easter is over, I can take a sigh of relief. I survived Good Friday.
Since I stepped on the garden rake decades ago—the kind with prongs, not sprongs—and went bleeding from three wounds in my right foot in order to get to the front door of our house in Oak Park (because son Jeremy, aged four, as a joke had locked the door and was giggling in prank hysteria on the inside back porch), I have been susceptible to Good Friday. At that time, I used my careless stigmata as a meditation on the sufferings of Christ. The backyard incident occurred as we were heading into the Easter weekend.
I don’t have words, really, for what happened. Simply stated, I entered into that suffering in a way that was more than a thoughtful meditation, and Good Friday has always been a dangerous day for me emotionally because I am apt to “lose it” somehow, someway.
I’ve had to leave Friday services due to sudden issues of blood (out of time and sequence); I go deeply into a despair that I know is not my own. It’s just there, waiting; and I am step into it, feeling overwhelmed.
So I was a little wary this Good Friday, two years after our son Jeremy’s death, wary of attending services. We had a car problem on the actual day—so the only family car went winging off driven by a visiting son to another church a few towns north of our house—without David and me, and I made compensatory plans to attend the Great Vigil ceremony at 12:00 the next day, Saturday.
The Great Vigil is also a dangerous place for me. The first one I attended, I got hit with meaning, tears spilled from my eyes, dripped on my lap as I was sitting and listening to the long reading of many Scriptures, and I was without any tissues. So I wiped with the back of my hand, sniffed and dripped and sniffed and dripped.
The Great Vigil, for those who are not part of liturgical churches, is passed down from the first generations of Christians. The Anglican Church we attend divided what is often an all-night vigil until sunrise on Easter Sunday into four parts: The Service of Light, The Service of Lessons, The Service of Baptism and The Service of Eucharist. The concept is to watch through the dark of the second night of the Triduum (the altar has been stripped on Maundy Thursday, the Paschal candle has been snuffed out. Scripturally and traditionally, this represents the period of time when Christ harried Hell. Together, as a people, we watch for Resurrection, which comes with the lighting of candles, the ringing of bells, the baptism of new believers into the church of Christ, the shouting of hallelujahs—quite a celebration. There was even dancing led by the bishop around the auditorium. We felt as though we had duly celebrated Resurrection.
I attended the Service of Lessons, which was musically and dramatically integrated with superb interpretive readings of Scriptures that start in the Old Testament and show forth the redemptive plan of God from Creation forward.
However, because I could not attend the Good Friday service does not mean I avoided the Good Friday susceptibility. Having lost an adult son, I got whammed with the reality of Mary, the Mother of Jesus enduring the torture, watching the humiliation, suffering as her Child suffered, witnessing Evil having its will—tearing, rending, ripping, jeering, abusing, buffeting, accusing, shaming, excoriating the One Being on earth she loved beyond all other beings.
Sorrow waited for me in the church auditorium. It pressed against my lungs, tightened in my soul. I bent my head into my arms, crossed them on the back of the empty chair in front of me and pushed against the power of grief that threatened to lay me flat on the floor. This grief is more than one woman’s grief; it is the grief of everywoman. That is all that I can say. That is all that I can say.
I moved down the few empty chairs in my aisle, trying not to shake with the spasms I could feel building within. A white-haired lady falling to the floor might cause a commotion in the middle of this carefully planned, beautiful delivered service. I just wanted to be near an exit in case I started gushing—in any way.
Perhaps it is just me, but I think the Scriptures that ask us (or explain to us) about entering into the sufferings of Christ (or his Mother, in my case, on this particular Easter week) have much more to do with feeling the depths of the world’s distress than it has to do with knowing about the world’s distress and being annoyed about it.
However, I’ve learned through some terrible personal journeys that I cannot avoid Good Friday. I think I could be on a cruise ship on some great sea, without a calendar to check the date, and Good Friday would hit me spontaneously, uninvited. Good grief would find me. And so it should. And so should I unaccountably be bowed beneath it. Bent under its weight. Folded toward the chair in front of me and toward the floor under my feet.
All suffering is His suffering. Discover this for yourself sometime, if you haven’t already. Don’t be afraid.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” —Romans 6:5-11.
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.