Saturday, April 4, 2015

Dogwood, Daffodils and Waiting

In Jesus' time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
'Twas strong and firm, its branches interwoven.
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
"Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown,
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of My agony.

 -Author Unknown

Every group of friends has a leader. It's just how people naturally assemble, isn't it? Sure they could be called a motley crew, the dozen of them, but the things that bind friends together were the things that bound them together. You believe in the same things, you answer to the same higher power, you have similar goals. This group of friends was no different in that respect.

Anyone who has ever been a part of a close knit social group, regardless of the specific links they all share together, knows the dynamics I am referring to here. There is banter and rumor and solidarity and brotherhood/sisterhood. It's just a part of our human journey that we relate to each other this way. This group of friends was no different in that respect.

Imagine the chaos that ensues in a group of friends when the leader among them is wrongly accused, imprisoned, and convicted of a heinous crime. We see this story play out many days in the news coverage. Some will immediately cast judgment and distance themselves from their own brother/sister. Some will form allegiances and vow to right the wrong that's been done. Others will sit back quietly, maybe spreading rumors amongst the "herd", never thinking about the impact their own actions are having. Bonds within the group will be tested, stretched, and even broken. Some will outright betray their friends for no apparent reason. And yet others will take the moment as an opportune time to assert themselves as replacement for the social position within their friend group. These aren't foreign concepts to us. We see this today. We saw it yesterday. We will see this again. It's either human nature or fallen human nature, right? This group of friends was no different in that respect.

But all the chaos ends - or rather is suspended - when the persecuted among them dies. No matter where you are in the social construct, that moment is resolutely silent. Seemingly one struggle ends and another begins. Any hope for redemption from worldly persecution is squelched with the finality of death. People fall into despair. The cycle of grieving begins. We live and breathe this pattern whether we like to or not. No matter how hopeful anyone has ever been for things to be sorted out in a case of someone being wrongfully accused, death offers a final decree for us. We know that death is inescapable in our tangible world and any real way to vindicate our brother/sister is now gone. This group of friends was no different in that respect.

The moments following a death (and any hope of righting a wrong before that death) are thick with sadness, rife with despair, and filled with everything that hope isn't. And that's exactly what Good Friday felt like at the foot of the cross. With the blood of Jesus Christ fresh on the wood, those surrounding Him experienced this cycle of grief. I'm certain of it....because we are all human and we share enough with each other through time and space as human creatures to be certain of what that moment must have been like. Son of God proclamation aside, death is something no one had ever conquered, so the finality of that moment would have been palpable. This group of friends was no different in that respect.

Perhaps you've realized that we are channeling the experience of the Apostles here (and those among them) as they lived through the terrible and beautiful and confusing Passion of Christ so many years ago. I can only imagine the utter confusion and agony that witnessing the realities that occurred along the Via Dolorosa must have involved. 

But you and I live in a world today where these painful footsteps have been transformed into artistic depictions that are merely called stations; they are no longer the actual bloody and agonizing footsteps of the redeemer of the world, but more likely detached symbolism. We know all about what happened after Christ died. We know that Good Friday wasn't the end of the story. We know death was conquered. And so with our modern ideas of calendrical hope and our Pottery Barn sensibilities for how to celebrate the Sunday ahead, we use Holy Saturday as merely a staging day for a happy holiday yet to come. A few thousand years is all it took to completely whitewash things, isn't it?

In that context, Holy Saturday is no longer to us a vigil for the most spectacular accomplishment ever achieved between Heaven and Earth. Just like Good Friday is no longer the day when hope seemingly died..... and like Easter Sunday no longer carries any real sense that the pearly gates opened wide for us through the outpouring of blood from the savior of mankind with a rebirth of Divine Hope.

We might be the Easter people, but right now we seem to be for sale at the low, low price of whatever the going-retail-rate-is because of our inability to connect with Christ's Passion.

Distance helps us hide from the truth, doesn't it?

So how do we reclaim our Holy Saturday and the vigil of the resurrection of Christ? How do we live the grief of Good Friday in a real way and experience the tension and hope of Holy Saturday and the victory and supreme glory that Easter Sunday should bring us, as a modern "Easter people"? 

I'm getting to that, I promise. You just have to wait a few more moments. Waiting. Get it? Here, I'll give you a lovely poem and picture to gaze upon while you wait!. ;)
The Daffodils
William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
   That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
   A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
   And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
   Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
   Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
   In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Let's talk a little about waiting. We can all admit that our sense of waiting is aligned more with the realities of modern technology than it is with our faith. Your call is important to us. We'll be with you momentarily. That's our idea of what waiting is like. It's one dimensional in that we have an expectation the waiting ends. And more than that - we expect that the waiting gets us what we want. Our modern ideas of waiting are so attuned to being entitled to answers, that I hesitate to think we have even a surface understanding of what Holy Saturday felt like anymore at all. And how is Good Friday poignant if we already know it wasn't as final as it must have seemed in the moment? It just isn't, if we are looking at it all through the lens that we are entitled to easy answers.

The creator of the entire world was brutally crucified and left to die on a splintery, wooden cross because of our inability to conceive of His humanity and divinity.... and here we are as a culture upset that our call is being answered in the order in which it was received. The two seem incongruous, don't they?

What if we looked at Easter (and the anticipation of it) through the lens of a more meaningful sense of waiting? What if we used our own understanding of our physical humanity to bring us back to understanding the sacrifice of Christ? What if we were able to own the entitlement to salvation as a victory over children who were purchased at the greatest cost imaginable? What if something we cannot control, manipulate, or overcome is the key to our truly understanding Christ's sacrifice? And the key to understanding the reality of the waiting that Holy Saturday brings us...

As an infertile woman, I think I'm beginning to learn a little bit about what being an Easter people is all about. Infertility really seems a lot like Holy Saturday to me. Cleansing through anticipation. Hope taught through the tension of waiting. I think I'm starting to get it.

And as much as I'm not going to have neat answers for all of the questions I posted above (how Holy Saturday of me...), I'm starting to realize that processing this through my own apparent cross is part of how I'm going to find my Easter with Christ. Yes, He already redeemed this. But struggling with infertility and recurring losses seems a whole lot like the reality that Good Friday must have brought to those at the foot of Christ's lifeless body on that cross (Virgin Mother anyone?). Maybe this is how I find a way to relate to Mary in any real sense? Maybe making it personal - like the relating to the Apostles that I tried to above - is how we find our way out of all of this being just symbolic. 

Infertility also seems a lot like the tension that must have been thick in the air on Holy Saturday as all of mankind waited, with fragile hope. And it seems like my own vantage point of what Easter is on the other side might be a bit like those dreamy Wordsworth daffodils.

No, I don't think my own journey is tantamount to the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday. I do think one of the only graces of looking inward on this Holy Saturday is that I found real pain when I looked there. And real pain seems to be what Holy Saturday is and was about. That, and waiting.

So without any neatly packaged answers, I end this rambling post still waiting. Not for my own reward. But for the resurrection in every way it can find us... 

The promise of a joyous Easter awaits, even with the weighty realities of our brokenness. Even with the tragedies that we endure. Through miscarriage, stillbirth, permanent infertility, and all the inescapable brokenness that we experience in life and and in marriage. There is still a reason to conceive hope. And Holy Saturday is why.


  1. I needed to see this at this moment !!

    1. Such a sweet comment, and so happy it was helpful timing for you! I've been thinking about this topic and it took a while to find the words for this post.

  2. Beautiful. Just beautiful!

  3. This is a very astute observation, sweetie. Not many people realise that the Crucifixion was not really depicted in art until centuries after it happened. This was because the early Christians were well aware of the horror and shame of such a death and had no desire to dwell on it, even when they knew how it turned out. I suppose we are very insulated from it today.

    1. We are insulated from a lot of Christ's suffering today.

  4. This is my first time visiting your blog, and I'm so happy I found you! Beautiful, beautiful....thank you for sharing your heart and your wisdom with us! (New Follower!)

    1. Welcome, Susan! So glad you found something meaningful in your web travels to our little corner of the internet. I'm enjoying reading along on your blog as well, which I only found because of your comment here. Happy Divine Mercy Sunday to you!

  5. If waiting is not the seed from which hope is conceived and faith grows, then what is its purpose? God is timeless so to look at waiting as simply the passage of time must certainly be one-dimensional, as you observe. Surely there is more to it than that. Wonderful post. Very thought provoking.

    1. SO WELL SAID. My goodness, it's like you paraphrased this entire post in a sentence!! :P

      Always enjoy your thoughts here, Lynda. Thank you for the kind words.