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Darkness before Dawn

“… darkness came over all the land.” ~ Matthew 27:45
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” ~ Proverbs 13:12
“Gone is my splendor and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.” ~ Lamentations 3:18

DARKNESS…  The world is dark as I sit and begin writing this, this evening of Good FridayNight has fallen, and actually it’s only the beginning of my day as I have 3rd shift chaplain duty at the hospital tonight.  Darkness has now lingered within me during this past year and more to depths I am not sure I’ve known before.  I don’t want you to read that and get the wrong idea.  Every moment of every day isn’t and hasn’t been dark for me.  In fact, most days it seems like I am ok, and am.  I’ve just experienced some fairly deep lows in this past year and longer, and tonight I find myself moved to write something in relation to it.

Darkness also came over all the land on this day and night over 2000 years ago on the original Good Friday.  First at noon and lasting until 3:00 p.m. (the 9th hour—Matthew 27:45) that day as Jesus hung on the cross, again a few hours later as day turned into night, and darkness fell upon and within the hearts of those who loved Jesus and had placed their hope in him.  Jesus too entered darkness, complete darkness—death, and he stayed dead.  He was taken off the cross and placed in a tomb to be his final resting place like everyone else who had died before him and since.  What do we do now?  What happens now?…

WAIT!…  Don’t jump to Sunday yet.  Linger here…  In the dark.  In the sadness, loss, grief, pain, sorrow…  It’s ok!  This is life.  This is your life.  This is our life.  We all know it.  Nobody is immune to suffering and loss and despair.

Welcome to the days in-between 

The once rock-n-roll band, The Grateful Dead, wrote about this experience in their song entitled “Days Between.”  The song begins, “There were days and there were days and there were days between.  Summer flies and August dies, the world grows dark and mean.”  We know this experience.  And the song ends saying, “Hoping love would not forsake, the days that lie between, lie between.”

On this night and through Saturday into Sunday morning we find ourselves in the days between…  In-between the darkness that came over the land on Good Friday and seeped deep into the souls of those who followed Jesus and the light of Easter morning…  In-between Christ’s death and resurrection…  In-between all hope crucified (Lamentations 3:18) and yet alive because of God’s great love (Lamentations 3:21-23)…  In-between death and life…  In-between sorrow and jubilation…  In-between mourning and dancing…  In-between gut-wrenching despair and awe-filled wonder…

IN-BETWEEN…

Much of life is lived in-between.  Even now as Easter originally occurred many years ago we’re in-between Christ’s rising and coming again.  Living in the in-between has its hard times.  Some lasting longer than others, some harder than others.  I’ve sure had my share of in-between times from alcoholism and abuse in my family growing up, to my parents divorcing, my dad’s suicide attempt leaving him brain damaged, being cut from athletic teams, and ever since going to seminary basically striking out in ministry (each of my first 3 ministry experiences have been significant struggles).

BUT  And thank God there’s a but!  But because of Christ we know we are not alone in our days in-between.  We have one who has gone before us and therefore is with us and can empathize with us in our days in-between (Hebrews 4:14-16).  God himself knows the darkness personally and intimately.  God entered in to our in-between himself, experiencing it himself, enduring it all the way to the cross and the grave and then out of the grave as well.

And there’s even more BUTS than this.  Scripture is full of them.  The bible has some of the best BUTS known to man[kind].  Proverbs 13:12 mentioned above fully reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, BUT a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Joseph in Genesis 50:20 uttered one to his brothers who harmed him saying, “You intended to harm me, BUT God intended it for good.”  Paul pens in Romans 8:32, “God did not spare his own son, BUT gave him up for us all.”  And maybe the best one of them all is Romans 5:8—“BUT God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  To steal a quote I saw online this week, “Friday = Life hurts like bloody hell.  Sunday = BUT love wins (Glennon Doyle Melton).”

Just recently I wrote a poem during one of my extended days in-between that captured some of my emotion, feeling, lament, and yet still hope and trust as well.  I started the poem late at night on Feb. 15th as Feb. 16th marked 1 year since the day I agreed to resign from my most recent pastorate.  Oddly enough, 2 years before that on Feb. 16th, 2013 my family and I had only just moved in to this same town that afternoon after leaving our first pastorate of almost 3 years that was a struggle too.  At just about the same time we arrived a year prior, I was agreeing to resign a year later.  Talk about weightiness…

I entitled this poem, “Dying to Live”, and it actually serves a double meaning.  One, that’s basically my heart cry, “I am tired of dying within”, I want to live again.  And two, it’s from dying itself that life arises out of (from dying within life will come).  Jesus is our first and ultimate example of this in the days from Good Friday to Easter.  Jesus himself also once talked about a kernel of wheat needing to fall to the ground and die in order for there to be life produced from it (John 12:24).  Jesus said as well, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~ Matthew 10:39

So, now come Easter morning I pray, as well as at the end of certain periods of days in-between in our lives, may you along with me be able to profess— No eye has seen, nor ear or heart give protest!

Dying to Live

Abba[1], I am tired of dying within.
     Sick of losing, I want to win!
What’s it going to take?
     When will you arouse, awake? (Psalm 44:23-26)

Am I really all that bad, incapable, unable?
      I don’t think so! Are my aspirations all a fable?
I am not sure what to hope for or expect anymore.
     Lord, what are you doing to settle the score?

Why did you call me?
     What have you made me for?
God, haven’t I served a long enough term? (Psalm 66:11)
     Where’s my place of abundance, not forlorn? (Psalm 66:12)

My Lord, I plead, how long is enough?
     What is the stinkin’ hold-up?
I long to see your goodness in the land of the living.
     Be strong, take heart… Gosh, it is wearing! (Psalm 27:13-14)

I do believe this—you have set my feet in a broad, spacious space. (Psalm 18:19)
     Oh, I wish some of my story could be tempered, erased.
You know my afflictions and the depths of my soul. (Psalm 31:7-8)
     I ardently trust your love is making all of this whole! (Psalm 42:8)

You are my hiding place, O’ Lord! (Psalm 32:7)
     I am not sure how much more I can still afford.
Please come quickly, and after it all may I profess—
     No eye has seen, nor ear or heart give protest! (Isaiah 64:4 & 1 Cor. 2:9)

[1] Aramaic for “Father” or “Dad”

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