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I sat with an old friend and mentor. He has taught me for over thirty years now, “Love requires an acknowledgment of the wrong,” he said. Though we don’t want to acknowledge this truth, my friend is right. We cannot escape Evil by pretending it is not there. Love can’t win unless we face evil and death.

The church in which I grew up observed only two days during Holy Week: Good Friday — the day we remember Jesus’ execution on the cross; and Easter Sunday — the day the Father, unable to bear the separation from His Son any longer, raised him from the dead. It was not until I went into exile in a little Episcopal Church (now part of the Anglican Church in North America) that I discovered two other holy days: Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday.

Jesus in the gardenOn Thursday, in obedience to a command of Jesus, many of us will gather and wash one another’s feet. The Thursday before he died, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples and then washed their feet. After he finished he told them to do the same for each other and then went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. While prostrate in prayer, Jesus sweat drops of blood as he pleaded to have his life spared, asking His Dad to find another way to save you and me. The foot washing service often ends in the dark; a door slamming, to symbolize the moment we sealed Jesus in the grave. The people who just intimately served one another, exit in silence, pondering death.

Rambo Book coverIt was Shelly Rambo, in her groundbreaking book, The Spirit and Trauma who properly introduced me to Holy Saturday. Because I am a Trinitarian therapist, the day has become one of the most important days in the Church’s year for me. For it is a day set aside to remember separation. There is no other day like it, for at no other moment, before or since has the Trinitarian relationship fractured. After breathing his last breath, Jesus was cast into Sheol, and the Father and Son lost their eternal communion. The demons laughed and partied, confident they had won. Jesus’ death was not merely a physical death; it was a spiritual one as well. While, He sat alone in the darkness of death. Shame covered him, separating Him from his Father. And as the cavernous space of their shattered relationship grew, hope died.  The eternal party broke up at the cross. The Angelic music faded, and Evil thought it had done the impossible — killing Life itself.

Please stop for a moment and listen to and hear the silence as it threatens to crush you. Encounter emptiness and feel the incomprehensible loss. Far worse than the death of a spouse or a child, at the cross, the Trinity experienced Spiritual death — our spiritual death. To me, that is unfathomable. Can you sense the darkness as you ponder?

If we allow the story in the Gospels to collide with our own, we can’t help but notice that His story is our story. For trauma with its silently-screaming memory keeps breaking us. Shame that grows in trauma’s furrow isolates us, keeping us from love, destroying our peace, and crushing our hope. No one can stand the darkness of isolation. We will do anything and everything to escape it. It is unbearable. The very thought of it terrifies even the most courageous. And, Rambo reminds us that this image of Jesus in Sheol mirrors the trauma and resulting shame that people too often endure. Too often ours is a dying life where the only promise is isolation. Rambo urges us to, first sit with ourselves in the dark, rather than trying to escape it by ourselves. For when we try to escape on our own; we dig ourselves deeper into the shit that covers us. All our attempts are but the flailings of our narcissistic defenses. They all lead to sadness, despair, and further death. And so, Rambo suggests we sit with our pain and wait, much as Rambo
the Hebrews, suffering in Egypt, waited for their Deliverer. She doesn’t stop there, however. She argues that as we stop struggling and remain in the dark, just like Jesus did before us, we discover a thin thread connecting us to the Holy Spirit. Holding on, we are given the opportunity to sit with others, also savaged by grief and loss. And as we sit with them in the darkness and bear witness to their shame, somehow both of us find life.

If we don’t hear Rambo’s appeal, we will never understand Holy Saturday. For it is an invitation to acknowledge the devastating effect of wrong, and feel its overwhelming weight so that we can be freed to love. For love recognizes the power and devastation of the wrong so that, with the full effects and hurt of the wrong in view, it can be forgiven.

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