courage from the tomb

What took more courage: going into the tomb or coming out?

On Good Friday the thought of going into the tomb overwhelms me. Too much blood and betrayal, too much violence and grief.

I drag my feet, wanting to stay in Holy Thursday where we break bread and wash each other’s dirt away. Yes, there’s betrayal and violence that night, too, but something feels safer in the celebration of service than in the commemoration of death.

When I’m thrust into Friday, it’s painfully dark and the Gospel makes me squirm and can’t it be Sunday already so we can get this mess behind us?

So whenever I close my eyes and try to imagine how Friday felt, the mocking and the beating and the pounding of nails into flesh, I’m awash with wonder at the courage it took Christ to die.

The courage it took to enter the tomb.

But this Easter, sitting in a dark church flickering with small candles of hope, I thought about the courage it took to leave the tomb.

Saturday must have felt so quiet and empty after Friday’s passion. Alone and safe in a cold stone cave. At last. Away.

Was he tempted to stay there? To let the hard work be behind him and the protection of death’s distance keep him safe from those who hurt him?

I used to think resurrection was a fairy tale trick, a golden glimmer from a magic wand that spun breath back into dead bones with a presto-chango burst of brilliance. But maybe resurrection is much more real, much harder.

Maybe resurrection starts with the courage to forgive.

The courage to move past pain and violence and death. The courage to move towards love and peace and life. The courage to walk out of the tomb and embrace humanity again.

I wonder if this is the reason Christ’s friends couldn’t recognize him at first, when they saw him in the garden and met him on the road. Not because he was a magical masquerader, but because he was utterly transformed by the courage that is deepest love. The courage it took to overcome humiliation and abandonment and rejection. The courage it took to forgive.

He looked different because he was different. Love won.

And the life that came from that courage – the life and the love and the hope and the faith and the Spirit that is still humming in so many of our bones – it takes my breath away with its truth.

The way everything is transformed when we live as if love wins.

. . .

So often I’m tempted by the tomb, tempted to stay in the solitude of safety and selfishness when I’ve been hurt. I’m tempted to hunker down against a world that doesn’t understand, that never understood.

But the call to live as an Easter person – to live into resurrection, to say no to despair and say yes to love – is a call that transforms. A call to have courage and let love win and leave the safe quiet and step back out into the world again.

I think of this often when I think of my children. How life will inevitably hurt them. How friends will betray and companions be cruel. How accidents will happen and mistakes be made. How their hearts (and probably bones) will be broken. How they won’t make the team or get the job they want. How people they love will die or abandon them.

Of course it’s not my job to shield them from any of it – it’s never our place to shield from life itself. We cannot hide in caves away from the world outside, content ourselves with licking our wounds from a thousand small deaths. The only thing I can hope to help them see is how to get up each time, breathe deeply, forgive and love again.

Try to let love win.

So my Easter prayer becomes one for courage. To shape a humble life that shows my children something about courage and forgiveness. To bear my own witness, my own small flickering light, to the love that wins.

7 thoughts on “courage from the tomb

  1. Thank you.

    This week we had a good friend in Kansas City die after an eighteen-month fight with cancer. On Good Friday, my mother and I went to visit her and her partner. We were there for ninety minutes, and it was holy and sacred time. While we held her hands and watched her sleep, cried a little and laughed too, I kept thinking of the advice that this woman had given me before I came back to Minnesota to start my full-time editing gig after graduate school. I was on her chiropractic table receiving a beating, I mean, adjustment, when she said, “You know, the work you are going to do requires humility. It’s like you’re dealing with people’s babies. They won’t want you messing with their work. Humility. Humility. Humility.”

    I have recalled her lines countless times over the past (almost) five years. Despite the fact that I have her words taped to my computer monitor, I often forget them. They do, however, just as often come to mind. It’s the best advice I’ve ever received about editing. And, should anyone ever ask me for advice about editing, it’s the best I could give.

    So as I knelt by Barb’s bed, holding one of her hands that she had used to beat, I mean, adjust me that day, I thought, “It takes humility to die. Humility. Humility. Humility.”

    I’ve kicked this around a lot since we last saw Barb. I’ve thought about courage as well. What do we do with the brutal reality of death? How do we face the deaths of others and ourselves with courage? With humility? If we believe in the resurrection, what light does that shed on our grieving? And on our dying? As you say, can we enter the tomb with the courage to enter eternal life?

    Thank you for another post that hits home precisely when it was needed.

    1. So much in your words here touches me deeply. The courage it takes to die, even the courage it takes to life with death always before our eyes – it seems so overwhelming and daunting, and yet simple humility may be the only way to face the truth, as you say.

      And your wise friend’s beautiful line about how your work is dealing with other people’s babies – maybe there’s something of that in all of our work. We need courage and vulnerability and humility all at once. A tall order, but a good one. Thank you for your thoughtful, thought-provoking words, as ever.

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