04.07.20 – Grace, We Want You Back!

Journal entry by Vicki Bunke 

Periodically I check Grace’s e-mail account. Why? I have no idea. But today when I checked her e-mail account, I was shocked to see that LA Fitness feels just as I do. They recently sent her an email with the subject line:

Grace, we want you back!

This shared sentiment reminds me of this upcoming Good Friday. On that very first Good Friday, I can only imagine that all of Jesus’ friends and family and followers must have thought the same thing as LA Fitness and myself. They must have thought, “We want you back!”

I think this is what makes Good Friday so hard. It is the day when all our easy answers fall flat. Death wins. Hope dies. Which explains why people might like to stay away or skip over Good Friday. Palm Sunday and Easter are celebrations; Good Friday interrupts their joy with the stark reality of life in all its awfulness. We don’t need church to remind us of that; it’s already all around us. Especially now with the current global pandemic.

Which reminds me of an interesting article that was written by Diane Cameron several years ago. In her article was the quote, “We live in a Good Friday world, but we are Easter people.” She goes on to describe a time in her life that was her “lowest point,” a time of crushing depression when everything seemed to be lost. It was her own personal Good Friday.

A lot of people reading this might be in the middle of what seems to be an interminable Friday. It is hard to accept suffering and illness and disappointment and uncertainty. These experiences and feelings can make Friday seem like it will never end. I think that is because if every Sunday is “a little bit Easter,” that leaves six remaining days each week to be “a little bit Good Friday.” To feel wronged. To feel forgotten. To feel God’s presence suddenly vanish, leaving you to wishfully plead, as those first Easter disciples did, “We want you back!” Or maybe for many people under the present circumstances, “We want our lives back!”

Our own family’s experiences have taught me what I think many people are feeling right now: that life is incredibly beautiful and terrifically hard. Sometimes simultaneously, though more often, these opposite features of life are proximate and subsequent to one another. I know what it’s like to feel humbled and fortunate for casseroles and cards dropped off at one’s door, while at the same time feeling incredibly alone, scratching your head and wondering, how is it possible to go on in the middle of a personal Good Friday?

I think that’s where faith comes in. I have found that the persistence of faith hinges on my ability to feel comfortable in the not knowing. I have found that the more I can incorporate mystery and contradiction into my understanding of God, the easier it is to believe even amidst personal pain and Good Fridays. In fact, faith is what allows me to believe that the story did not end on Friday. Faith is what permits me to accept that although we might live in a Good Friday world where we yearn for things to be different, where I and the folks at LA Fitness can’t help but place this wishful thought in our daily subject line: Grace, we want you back!; at the very core of it all, we remain an Easter people full of hope.

Thankfully, this week is not just about Good Friday. The hope of this season and our lives is all about Sunday. It’s all about Easter Sunday. It’s all about Easter Sunday when Jesus triumphantly told the world: I am back!

‘It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’!’ (Tony Campolo)

PS – This week, several families from our wonderful middle school life Group delivered wooden crosses to our home as well as to the Hillis’ to remind us to choose faith over fear. After Caroline and our neighbors decorate it, we plan to place it in our backyard underneath Grace’s birthday/baptism tree. It will serve as reminder to me that as much as I would love to see and hug Grace right now, I should not want Grace to come back. Why? Because she is already home.

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