When I was a little kid, if I had to quickly get something from the basement, I would not always turn on all the lights. That would leave me in darkness. It would always freak me out, so I would hurry to get what I needed and run up the stairs.
Today, sandwiched right between death and resurrection, is Holy Saturday. Death brings despair because we don’t know what will happen. So we enter the dark void of grief and unknowing.
In our lives, we often find ourselves in these places. Places where questions seem to go unanswered. Places of despair and confusion.
It was August, and I was back home for a friend’s wedding. I was sitting in the living room with my mother. “I didn’t tell you the full results of your tests from the dermatologist,” she started. “They found cancer in the spot they biopsied.”
There’s a lot of weight in the word cancer.
Fortunately, in my case, my dermatologist believes they removed it all. I know that is not the case for others. I have friends I love who are wrestling with doubt and fear. There are people who spend their entire lives in the darkness of doubt, fear, and longing.
The disciples asked, “Why did the Messiah have to die?”
Holy Saturday serves as a reminder that faith is rarely clear-cut, black and white. There is room in our Christian story for unanswered questions and doubts.
Lauren Winner writes in her book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis:
“Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith. And yet I continue to live in a world the way a religious person lives in the world; I keep living in a world that I know to be enchanted, and not left alone. I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless, prone to wander. And yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.”
Sometimes Holy Saturday feels like driving in fog. You cannot predict what is ahead, but you keep moving forward. Other times Holy Saturday feels like you are in a much more severe storm, and you must wait it out, all the while praying no tornado will emerge from the storm clouds.
Do I want to avoid the ambiguity and uncertainty of Holy Saturday by jumping prematurely into Easter? Yes. Of course I do. Life without death? Sign me up. I want to avoid it and run up the stairs out of the dark basement.
But I can’t.
I cannot help but cling to Holy Saturday as the day of watchful expectation. Mourning is being transformed into joy, though it does not happen instantly. Holy Saturday finds us in darkness now, but we are waiting for the dawn of hope and resurrection.
Today embodies in the fullest possible sense the meaning of the Greek word “xarmolipi,” which paradoxically means joyful-sadness.
So, maybe in the waiting, I will light a candle to remind myself that there will always ultimately be light in the midst of the darkness.