I have something to confess: I have had a tenuous relationship with Lent, and most especially with Good Friday, ever since my son died.
After Jacob's death, I felt I had experienced enough Lent, enough death, for my entire life and beyond. I had no more energy for soul-searching. Many days, I was simply trying to survive. Every moment that I wasn't crippled by grief felt like a small victory. Over time, being able to remember real moments from his life, and not just the moment of his death, seemed also like a victory, a little resurrection. Emotional survival took up most of my energy, and so I chose not to "do Lent."
(I realize now I might have been short-sighted about what Lent can be, what it can mean, but I am choosing to be honest here. I did what I could at the time.)
That feeling--having had enough of Lent forever--has been my mode for years. And how long has it been? Jacob would be 16 now.
In time, I had church music posts that required me to deal with Lent and Holy Week, and I was able to walk through the season as part of the job. I poured my heart and my strength into planning meaningful, worshipful music, and decided to let this be enough Lent for me. In those days, it was. The beauty, the pain, the love in these liturgies and in their music was healing, yet they also allowed me to enter into the holy season with some distance: I had a job to do; I did it to my very best ability. I managed to keep myself shored up, safely immersed in the work, treading not where the spirit would break again from sorrow.
When we moved to a new town, I found myself serving churches in which there was not a custom of music for a Good Friday services, and so I didn't "do" Good Friday for about 5 years.
Somehow in the heart's secret wisdom I knew it was time to participate in Good Friday again. So I went.
There were many people there. The church was lit by sunlight, filtered through flowering dogwoods. The wood of the pews was steady and solid, the sound of the solemn collects a murmuring balm.
Near the end, I realized my mind had fixed on this idea: that Good Friday is a place to bring all the sorrows, the dashed hopes, all the pain, the worry, the heartache. It is a place to bury them and to know they will be healed and rise again, transformed. (I am sure this is not a theological breakthrough in the world, but it certainly was for me, today.) As much as I talk to God in prayer, and have for years followed a rule of life, I don't know that I have ever been quite willing to lay down some of these burdens. Today, I am grateful to have found a place for them. Strange; surprising!
I remembered, then, a dream of Jacob. In this dream, we were all out for a family picnic, and he was leading the way. He took us to a beautiful field of golden wheat, overhung by a sky of crystal blue. As I started to spread out the picnic supplies, Jacob lay down in the wheat, as in the grave, looked directly into my eyes, and said "celebrate with me."
Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain.
Love, love and love to each and all this Holy Week.