"In the Shadows"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -
A few days ago someone told me that she never goes to church on Good Friday because “she already has enough pain in her life without having to attend a church service and listen to stories about the gruesome crucifixion and death of Jesus.”
Today is “Good Friday” on the Christian calendar, and while one might expect that churches will be filled up on this day, the truth is that, like my friend who spoke to me recently, many people avoid church on this day because “they already have enough pain in their lives.”
Plenty of people are afflicted with physical or emotional pain, they have financial problems, relationship problems, perhaps they have suffered the loss of a loved one, or they are plagued by depression, anxiety and addiction; and so the thought of going to a church and listening to how Jesus was tortured and brutally executed on a cross is just too much for them to face. Instead they stay home, maybe turn on the TV or mindlessly browse their Facebook pages or Twitter feed and wait for the happier times of Easter to come along.
The more I think about it, I believe that is important and even vital for us to look at and even embrace our wounds and sufferings. And as I see it, looking upon the wounds of Jesus is as good a place as any to do this - not just for observant Christians but for any one of us since we all share a frail and broken human condition.
I am reminded of something the psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, once said:
How strange it is that we should feel compelled to hide our wounds
when we are all wounded.
Love demands the ability to express our wounds and our weaknesses
to our fellow creatures.
It also requires the ability to be affected by the wounds of others.
But even more important is that healing happens
when we share our common woundedness.
At some level we all know what it means to be wounded and weak, but instead of avoiding or trying to hide our pain, we find our true strength by recognizing it and by being vulnerable enough to share the pain of life with one another - only then can healing really happen.
I think about something I once read in one of Paul Coelho’s books:
The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.
For me, this one little piece of wisdom almost perfectly captures what “Good Friday” is all about and why, what we remember on this day is not only a message for Christians but a lesson for any one on any path of truth.
The picture of a powerless, defeated, crucified, dying Jesus with his hands and feet nailed to a cross is a tender image of “utter fragility,” and in that fragility we see the epitome of powerful and enduring love. It’s the kind of love that all of us wounded creatures are all called to express as we make our way through the shadows of night and bring each other into the bright light of day.
I came across this beautiful line of poetry by W.H. Auden- it seems like a perfect meditation to ponder in the shadows of this “Good Friday:”
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere
iconic points of light
flash out wherever the Just
exchange their messages.