There has been a kite caught in our lilac bush throughout all of winter. A bright neon green kite has just been stuck in a bunch of branches for months. This kite has been tangled—unable to fulfill its only real purpose. Kites were created to fly.
A friend of mine has been battling cancer for over a year. First it was esophageal cancer, then it was cancer discovered in her lungs. The doctors had little options when it came to the cancer in her lungs. While I do not understand or comprehend why this happened, I feel like the lilac bush branches are like cancer—preventing a beautiful person from reaching flight, her full potential.
Together we were Youth and Family Ministry majors in college; we both had a desire to be involved in ministry with youth. If anyone had the passions and gifts for ministry, it was Cassandra. She was considerate and supportive. I don’t remember when I was added to the group of people she would text every night with a scripture passage, but she would send a text message every night. She would include a scripture, and then a short message always saying something along the lines of “let me know how I can pray for you. I love you!” When I needed prayer, I could always trust her to be there for me.
It is not fair that her life was cut short. It makes me downright angry this happened. I know she was suffering, and I am praising God she is not suffering anymore. But her life was so precious. She touched and impacted so many people. More people than anyone could realize. Her influence was the kind that years from now, someone will make the connection that it was her kind words or support that kicked off a ripple effect of influence. Her passion for other people was obvious. She was always sharing prayer requests or stories of the teenagers she mentored. I remember several honest conversations we had. Our friendship was formed over several classes together. Neither one of us let our guard down right away, so our friendship was formed slowly over a couple years in college.
I do not believe the Church knows how to mourn, grieve or lament well. Today is Good Friday. Of all days, today should be the day we are able to lean into the tension that death is a reality. Christ was killed, crucified on a cross. Yet we are all eager to hurry past the cold, dark harshness of death. I understand why; death is uncomfortable. We all long for resurrection.
I remember standing in the parking lot of my college campus when I received the news one of my best friends and his wife were in a car accident. A couple pastors saw a group of us crying and shaken with shock and grief. They said, “We do not mourn like the world mourns. We grieve with hope.” I knew their words were right and true, but we do still mourn. Our hearts ache when we lose someone we love. We do grieve with hope because of resurrection. Yet, Easter comes after Good Friday and Saturday. The Saturday that looms with darkness as we ask, “Is God here or not?” It’s an overwhelming sense of grief, so we fill it with Easter egg hunts or dyeing Easter eggs.
Yes, Easter is on Sunday. Christ’s resurrection did come—death was not the end of his story, nor is it the end of the story for Cassandra. But today is still Good Friday. Today is the day we sit with our own experiences of suffering and death, the very experiences that make us shuffle uncomfortably in our seats. We rarely seek out opportunities to dwell in a place of suffering. When I was in the gas chambers at Dachau, the concentration camp, my natural reaction was to flee. I wanted to leave immediately, to pull away.
Good Friday provides us the time to ask the questions we never feel are appropriate to ask. Jesus, why didn’t you save yourself? Why didn’t you come down from the cross with power and glory? And then there are our modern-day Good Friday questions: Why couldn’t you heal Cassandra? Why couldn’t she have been a miracle? But Jesus died for us. He knew it was not the end. Writer Barbara Johnson said that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. One only needs to turn on the news to see how true this is.
Suffering and pain are a part of human life. Good Friday allows us to acknowledge that, sit with it, dwell in it. Our culture rarely provides us with the opportunity to acknowledge our hurt and pain. Good Friday lets us join Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the others who stood at the cross because Jesus, whom they loved, was dying. They wanted to keep vigil with him. They wanted to cry and mourn. They were mourning not only the death of Jesus, but, in a way, also the death of their expectations. Those who were waving palm branches just days before did not see it going like this. Good Friday gives us the space to mourn the many losses we have experienced and will continue to experience.
Good Friday helps us recognize our longing and desperate need for God. Our salvation was never something we could do for ourselves. Another friend of mine sent me the link to this article, which says,
“We know how the story ends, but in that one infinitely dark moment all the theology in the world offers little comfort. Miracles are shrouded in grief, and faith struggles to breathe. So we are left standing beside the grave that holds the broken body of our God and the shattered pieces of our belief. […] Hoping against hope for resurrection.”
So, just hours ago, I was sitting in church during the middle of my Friday. I was trying to come to grips with Christ’s death, but also the death of my friend. Longing for resurrection, but knowing I cannot rush past Good Friday to reach Easter. Resurrection will come.