"FROM MY TRADITION," the priest began, "We believe in the resurrection of the dead, that there is life in heaven, and that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones."
I nervously shuffled my feet — not because there was anything wrong with what the priest had said, but because I could sense that no one in the room found this the least bit reassuring or helpful. How could such a hopeful message sound so hollow and meaningless?
We had gathered to remember the life of a loving mother, a caring friend, and a vibrant and life-giving personality. She had contracted an aggressive infection as a complication from her second childbirth. Barely a week after giving birth to the life she had carried within her for the past nine months — and at the mere age of 35 — the infection took her life.
We were all devastated by the tragedy. How could a good God so easily allow for a woman — a mother — who loved others so passionately and with so much energy to die? It felt senseless and unnecessary. Was clinging onto hope all that we were left with?
It's strange to think, that considering our faith is built on an idea that we can only have life because of a death, that we do everything possible to avoid grieving death. Some of us can barely get through Good Friday without immediately looking forward to Resurrection Sunday.
It's strange to think, that considering our faith is built on an idea that we can only have life because of a death, that we do everything possible to avoid grieving death.
But the beauty of Good Friday is in acknowledging that our Savior did die, that for a few days, it seemed as if the world had lost all shape and form, that darkness surrounded us from all sides, and that the light of the Messiah we eagerly anticipated was snuffed out. When we take Good Friday seriously, our hope in Jesus' resurrection is all the more joyous and glorious and triumphant. The more deeply we recognize our loss and our pain, the more gloriously we can recognize the hope Jesus offers.
So we need new ways to grieve our losses, without simply just pointing to a future hope. We need a different perspective of finding value and worth in the grieving process, without quickly jumping to a happy ending.
Because even in the midst of our deepest sorrows and pain, we also find the greatest glimpses of beauty and flashes of moments worth celebrating.
This means walking with others — sometimes without any words to say — as they sit stunned from the news they just received. That we leave the tears on our faces just a little longer before they're wiped away. And that we allow ourselves to remember, even though we know we'll feel that knot in our stomachs.
To my surprise, the memorial service ended with a close friend of the family, who prayed this prayer: "God, in our hurt and confusion, we cry out, 'Where are You? Why do we call out to You and You don't respond?' ... Help us in our darkness to see Your light."
May we feel the freedom to cry and to shake our fists at God in the midst of our pain, knowing with full confidence that God can handle our honesty, grieves with us, and continues to walk with us in our pain.