There are times in our lives where we are supposed to let things die. There are times in our lives we are suppose to call forth life. And there are times in our lives where we have to allow for both. Today is Good Friday. A day for both.
Growing up in a catholic school, (however not being Catholic-that was confusing), I remember celebrating this day every year. We would line up outside our school come rain or shine, in our little uniforms of plaid and knee highs and walk down the street to the cathedral and go to Mass. We would kneel down for far longer then our tiny knees could handle on the wooden kneelers and bow our heads in honor of the sacrifice Jesus made for us that day “soooooo long ago.”
As a child I tried to understand the "celebration of Death”. I had been to funerals and remembered people crying, wearing black and lighting candles and remembering that I was suppose to “feel sad.” But this day felt different. It felt like a funeral for someone who never died but yet we were still mourning their loss. I didn’t know if I was suppose to hang my head and feel sad or happy. It confused me. Good Friday confused me. Easter Sunday always made sense to celebrate. It was joyful, happy and peaceful, all things that aligned with what I understood as a child to be worthy of “celebrating", but death, that did not seem worthy of celebrating.
In english we call it “Good Friday” but here in Germany it’s called “Karfreitag” or “Sorrowful Friday”. And it’s amazing to me how the same day can interchangeably be good and sorrowful all at the same time. For anything to be good news we have to also reflect on the bad news that makes the good news so good. Good Friday is “good” because as awful and painful as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. God’s wrath against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to all of life on earth. Without that awful day of “sorrow" and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). God could not be “Good.” Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.
Jesus’s resurrection would not have been possible and would have been inappreciable (or more so) had He never died. And had He never died, then His life’s purpose would have been unfulfilled. My life’s purpose these days has been learning the balance of when to let things die and when to call forth life. I tend to find myself constantly getting the timing, and calling of each one wrong. Anyone else? The things that I want so badly, I’m unyieldingly holding onto. And things I want to bring forth to life, I have such little faith for.
The things that I stubbornly keep alive, I fight, I kick and scream, I exhaust myself to keep going. When I resist or alter this fate, I find that something will replace it’s death only exchanged somewhere else. Someone, something, or some will, dies. One day it starts out little. You get discouraged. Then you get angry. Then you give up hope. And then you become numb. A part of you dies. All because you were unwilling to just let something go. When we can’t let something die that must, something else will replace it’s death. And most of the time, it will be at our own expense. When we loose hope in our lives, our faith dies. When we loose our passion, our purpose dies. When we fight for relationships that are no longer healthy, our standard of relationships dies. We might be able to hold onto a dying thing for a little bit longer then it's life expectancy, but at what cost?
On the contrary, we must also know when to call forth life and when to have faith for new birth. I too struggle on this end and I find it’s completely connected to my inability to welcome death in my life. My faith for new, hopeful, beautiful things is often overshadowed by the sting of the deaths in my life, and there for I do not care to bring in new life. Because I am unable to let things die, I am also unable to believe for things to live. I am unable to believe goodness and life will ever come because the death of so many other thing so painfully narrated my chapters. Jesus’ resurrection teaches me today that the sweetest, most precious things... the most beautiful, meaningful things in life, always come from a place of something else having to die. And LETTING it die. Things WILL die. They will. But if we don’t LET them, if we don’t make peace with them, they will forever dictate our ability to have faith for new life.
So many times I thought that if I just prayed harder, worked harder, believed harder, tried harder I could sway death’s plans. But I found myself at loss. We are so willing to fight, to have faith and believe, but we are not willing to let go. Because to let go of the things we love, and want means choosing death over life. And we just want the joy of life. As a child I didn’t want to celebrate Jesus’s death. I didn’t want to bruise my knees and hang my head and honor His death. I wanted to honor His life… (lets be honest Liz, I wanted the chocolate bunnies in my easter basket on Sunday morning.) But I think what I was identifying as a child, is that I only wanted to give my time, my thoughts, my celebration to that which brings life. Not that which brings death.
I have seen so much death in my life lately. Dreams die, relationships die, hopes die, beliefs die, even friends and loved ones actually die. I have been surrounded by sadness and pain. Sickness and heavy hearts. A community that hurts and a family that mourns. I have been saturated in the color of grey and through the most taxing, gruesome, painful, real, years of my life I have finally learned to let so many of those things simply die. To release them to the grave. To rest after years of fighting and wrestling and holding on. I have learned the beauty of mourning. The celebration of mourning the life that once was that has come to pass. I have learned to kneel my still tiny knees at the feet of Jesus without words or prayers or understandings, and simply just be and accept death. Not fighting. Not trying. Not bartering to sway deaths plan. But submit to it.
At the last supper it says that "the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself”John 20:7 It has been rumored that folding the napkin at the table is a Jewish custom that means the person folding the napkin intends to return. Jesus's promise for us with all death that we experience in our lives is that not only will there be a return of new life, but that there is a promise of new life. His crucifixion was inevitable. That doens't make it any less meaningful, painful, agonizing or purposeful.. but it, like all death, was inevitable. And it like all death deserves mourning.
What is also inevitable, is life that comes after death. I know that with all the things I had to let go of, I was making way for new life in my life. I was releasing my friends and loved one to life in heaven. My dreams to make way for new dreams, and my relationship to pave the way for new, stronger ones to come. And because I have let so many things go. I am now at a place today where I can walk forward in His promise of calling forth new life. Because I allowed so many things to die, and celebrated those deaths, there is room in my heart being made for new things.
It’s cold and gloomy outside today. The spring is struggling to break it’s way through and the winter is struggling to let go. But like my dad taught me through the easter egg hunts growing up…. you can’t pick up new eggs when the other ones are still in your hand. You’ve got to lay it down so you can grab more. And you can’t have any day of Life, without a Good Friday to let go.