Maybe I like it so much because we so often glaze right over it. It makes sense. We want to hear about the exciting part where Jesus says, "It's cool, guys. I'm back. I got this."* The Resurrection is exciting and beautiful and pretty critical to the life on which we base our faith. But the ugly middle parts are what always hit me hardest. How can we be so cruel and terrible to each other day after day? Poverty, violence, bigotry: Whether we sit idly by or we actively perpetuate harm to others, we're all complicit. On a personal level, the middle parts to me represent the parts of my life that I tend to mitigate or muddle through; like grief from loss or the ugly truths I don't want to face. But yet, that's where I find God to be so near. That's where I'm asking for God and reaching out and trying so desperately to feel God's presence like a warm blanket shielding me from the cold wind. And the Creator is always there when I ask; when I really ask with my heart, when I really seek to be wrapped up in God's love. God always finds me.
I didn't get much of a typical Holy Week experience this year. I spent most of it in the Northern Cape on a HOPE Africa project visit. The visit itself held a hopeful message for Easter; one of employment for many women living in pretty severe poverty. With this project, HOPE Africa is working with government to see that the people pictured below, and many others, are paid for work they are currently doing on a volunteer basis. On this trip, I saw a lot of African countryside and felt inspired by the work these women do for nothing other than the good of their communities.
But, as you can imagine, I was really excited to get back in time for Good Friday so I could mourn for Jesus. (Again, I realize that that sounds disturbing). I planned to spend the long weekend at Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery in Grahamstown as soon as I found out I had Friday AND Monday off- thank you South Africa and your reverence for public holidays! I love the monastery and the community of brothers there and of course it's nice to see Steve and Cameron, too :-) The project visit was a long driving trip, though-- around 30 hours in a car-- and I made it back to Cape Town with just enough time to shower, pack, and catch my flight. Never fear, though. I made it in time to do the usual panic and clear security as my plane geared up and dreary-eyed flight attendants explained the proper operation of complicated matters like seat belts and dangling oxygen masks. And despite running on about an hour and a half of sleep, I was ready. Jesus was going to show us how to die and be reborn into new life. And we were going to have a big ole welcome back party for him on Sunday!
But then I missed Easter.
Yep. I made it as far as the bottom of my peanut soup on Holy Saturday evening before my fever skyrocketed and tonsillitis reared its ugly head. For the next four days I slept mostly and made a big stink out of taking medicine, but reluctantly did three times a day with the polite nudge of my all-star nurse, Stephen-- who also moved my return flight back a few days until I had fully recuperated dontchaknow. The day I left Grahamstown was the first day the sun had appeared from behind heavy rain clouds in almost a week. One of the Brothers even made the joke that I had brought Cape Town winter with me when I arrived!
Despite the cold rain and the minor tonsillitis issue, I had a fabulous weekend. It was worlds apart from the sunny picnic in Central Park of last Easter (particularly because this was the first year I didn't attend church on Easter Sunday). But in some ways, this unusual Holy Week helped me to appreciate the happy ending slightly more. Because even though I missed the first Alleluia and the lighting of the Paschal candle, the rain still ended. The sun still came back. The nasty lesions on my tonsils went away. And oh yeah, love conquered death yet again.
"He is risen, he is risen!
He hath opened heaven's gate:
we are free from sin's dark prison,
risen to a holier state;
and a brighter Easter beam
on our longing eyes shall stream."
*I hope not to offend with my colloquial description of Christ's death for our salvation. I simply blog how I speak, which is often rarely more than negligible chatter.