The Holy In-Between
I'm writing this essay on the Saturday of Holy Week 2017. This is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It's the middle child of the resurrection; the forgotten day. We have a tendency - myself included - to rush past today. We want to jump from Good Friday straight to the empty tomb. But I think today is actually very important. And I'm - obviously - going to tell you why in a moment, but first I want to look at the two days that get all of the attention.
If you didn't grow up in the Christian tradition, let me explain what the heck I'm talking about. The week prior to Easter Sunday is designated as Holy Week. There are several different services during those 7 days that celebrate and remember various parts of Jesus' journey to the cross and - ultimately - the empty tomb. For example, this past Thursday was Maundy-Thursday (please don't ask me what that means because I don't remember) where we remember the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus had with his crew.
So after Thursday comes Friday. (Did I blow your mind?) Good Friday is the day of the crucifixion. We track Jesus journey from being judged by Pontus Pilate to carrying the cross to being put to death. It's a day that gets a lot of attention, as it well should. There is no resurrection without death. Even if you read the Bible only as metaphor, it is still significant. In order to effect change in your life or shed destructive habits, it often becomes necessary to put those "to death." You may have heard it called "dying to your old ways". This is the new rhythm God establishes in with the Resurrection: death, then life. More on that in a later essay.
Before I got much further, I want you to take a moment and think about the Good Fridays you've had in your life. I'll go first. As some of you are aware, I have depression. I regularly have negative thought patterns that I have to recognize and stop before they get too far down the road. So - in many ways - I feel like I have many Good Fridays throughout the day. I have put to death my negative ways of thinking. And then quite often they are resurrected into something new and better. Like what I'm doing right now.
There is another way we can look at Good Friday. I remember when I was younger, we would go to Good Friday service at my home church. These services stand out to me because part of it was: everyone left the sanctuary in total silence. So there is a sense of mourning that comes with Good Friday as well. Jesus did just die, after all. When you think about your "Good Fridays" in this sense, I'm sure it's easy to come up with examples. We have all been there, in the face of a loss, tragedy, death, despair. We have all found ourselves in the silence, praying for Easter and wondering if it will ever come. Every time I watch the movie Friday Night Lights I get the same feeling of anxiety during the final football game. Now understand, I've probably seen that movie 10 times, and I know - spoiler alert - they don't win the championship. But Every time I get anxious and excited because somewhere in my mind I'm hoping, "Maybe they changed it somehow and this time they win!"
I know what the ending is, but in the midst of the struggle, that doesn't matter.
Sometimes our Good Fridays can be so disruptive that Sunday feels like it is an eternity away.
And that's part of the significance of Saturday, but I'm getting to that.
Let's skip Saturday for a moment and talk about Easter Sunday. The day - as comedian Jim Gaffigan puts it - we celebrate Jesus coming back from the dead as a rabbit who hides colored eggs. This is the Big Day in Christianity. The empty tomb. The newly established rhythm of life. It is no longer "life, then death" but rather "death, then life." It's the day that changes everything forever. It's more than understandable that we would want to rush to this day. It's the day of Good news! Plus we get to eat a bunch of ham and hard-boiled, dyed eggs for some reason.
And then, nestled in-between these two days of great significance is poor little Saturday. The day that Holy Week forgot. I've been saying this whole time that there is something rather important about the in-between. I find it significant and it resonates with me because we live most of our lives in-between. There are days of my life when I really feel resurrected, like I've tapped directly into this new reality and I can hear the revenant hum of the universe louder than anything else. And then I have Good Fridays, marked by tragedy or loss or even death.
But most of the time I feel more in-between. The Holy In-Between bears with it a sense of longing. It is the feeling in the midst of the struggle, when you can't remember how you got here and you don't see the end. I like how the band The Fray puts it:
If we're being honest, don't we spend more time there than on Friday or Sunday?
I believe there is a holiness to this in-between. It's an exercise in faith to own the "Saturdays" of our lives. A Good Friday has happened and we are trusting - or sometimes just hoping - that a Sunday is coming. We are hoping we will find the horizon again. The Holy In-Between is where can embrace our doubts and say that sometimes it feels like Sunday isn't coming. It's where we can tells stories authentic to the human experience. We can stop working so hard to project an image that we are constantly living on glorious mountaintops of life and, in so doing, connect in a profound way with other people on the journey. And when Sunday arrives, it will arrive all the sweeter because we will have owned and can remember and appreciate the valleys, the times in-between.
Not that long ago I was talking to a friend of mine about music. We both have reached a point in our lives where we are making money performing, getting paid to do something we love. And both of us were struck profound sense of: I never thought I would be here. We spoke of all the times we did this free and the many hours spent working on our art that no one ever sees; all the times we busted our asses just hoping we could someday get to this point. We told stories of the Holy In-Between.
What an incredible gift.
If you find yourself in-between, I hope you take a moment to stop and appreciate it. Maybe you're there because you said "yes" to the journey and it took you down an unexpected path. Maybe you're there because a Good Friday happened that forced you to radically alter course. Whatever the case, I hope you take a moment to feel the tension of hope. We have so much to learn in the moment before The Moment.
It is true: there is no Sunday without Friday. But I believe there's no growth without the Holy In-Between.