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He is risen. Allelluia!

“Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here; he is risen.” Luke 24:5-6

Indeed, he is risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!

Holy Saturday: Waiting in the shadows

I’ve been awake since 4:30 a.m., which seems appropriate somehow on this day of watching and waiting. The rain is coming down. The sun has not made an appearance. It is as if the world is weeping and holding its breath all at once, waiting for an answer.

At this point in the season, past the Lenten promises — too many of them unfulfilled — to fast and pray and serve, I always identify with Peter, locked away, afraid, ashamed, alone. Every year I want Lent to be “perfect.” I want to make Good Friday better than perfect. I want to do justice to the day, as if that’s even possible. And, as if on cue, every year I fail miserably. Good Friday always ends up being the exact opposite of what I had hoped for. Of course, that’s nobody’s fault but my own.

Then I remember Peter, and I can’t help but be comforted. He doubted, denied, ran away, and yet Jesus saw fit to call him the “rock,” the one who would go on to lead his church, or, at that point, his band of disciples. Maybe, just maybe then, Jesus sees some shred of worth beneath my many failings, behind my own doubts and fears.

This Lent certainly did not turn out the way I imagined it would. My plans to set aside certain times for silence and prayer were waylaid by sick children and my own bout with a brief illness. For weeks on end, we seemed to have one virus after another at our house, keeping us down — both physically and spiritually. Rather than hang on for dear life to what I wanted, however, I began to realize that perhaps my “sacrifice” for the season was to let go of my plans, even the plans to pray more, and accept what was right there in front of me — my children in need of a mom to read to them, comfort them, make them snacks, or just snuggle on the couch in the middle of the afternoon. In some ways, my Lenten plans were far more selfish than the Lenten reality I was handed. I wanted to lock myself away in silence. Instead I had to give up my quiet time and make time for someone else, and isn’t that what I should have been doing in the first place?

So today, as I sip coffee in the silence of early morning, while everyone else is sleeping, I’m focusing on the fact that things often are not as they appear — as the earliest disciples learned after what at first seemed like defeat on the cross. My Lent wasn’t really a failure; it was simply different than what I wanted it to be initially. Perhaps then, my Good Friday wasn’t a failure either. Perhaps it was simply another — albeit bumpier — path to the same Truth.

On this Holy Saturday, I am waiting in shadows of my own making, like Peter, longing to be set free.

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” — John 8:31-32

Alleluia! He is risen!

My friend Anna Foster took the picture above at left, featuring a Euphorbia milii, also known as a Crown of Thorns or a Christ Plant. Aside from being a beautiful photo, what I really love about this image is that it captures our Easter theology so succinctly. The prominent thorns are a reminder of the suffering that Jesus had to undergo for our sakes, but the bright pink flowers reaching heavenward from the same stem are in perfect juxtaposition, reminding us that life’s beauty and newness cannot be divorced from its sharp edges and sorrowful moments.

Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who turned the cross into a symbol of victory, taking a sign of agony and making it a sign of love through his ultimate sacrifice.

We know that while Easter opens up the door to eternal salvation, it does not protect us from our own crosses. We must pick them up, trusting that God will not leave us to bear the burdens alone. Like the Christ Plant, our lives, too, will blossom with flowers while at the same time carrying the scars of thorns.

Today we cry out Alleluia, He is risen, and we have been saved.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Psalm 118