temple was torn in two.
Darkness. I don't know about you, but I feel like everywhere I look these days there is darkness. When it is dark we are unable to distinguish what is real, it is hard to see even that which may be right in front of our eyes. I don't remember if I was scared of the dark as a child, if nightlights were a part of my life or if I feared monsters or the like. I have wonderful memories of being outside at night, playing basketball with my Dad or swimming in the pool with the light on and watching the fireflies and other night creatures with curiosity. Darkness allows for our minds to make great leaps. Imagining what is in the dark is what can get me scared.
As an adult I have had some amazing adventures, travelling places I never thought I would go and building relationships with people I never thought I would meet. One of these places is in Kenya, at our children's home. The darkness in Kenya can seem really dark, as there is limited access to electricity. We would wear headlamps and the children would laugh. They were so used to being in the dark that it didn't phase them. Should we have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night it meant crawling out of your bed, which was covered by a mosquito net that had been tucked in around you, and then heading for the outhouse type bathroom. Walking out in the dark in Kenya could be a little scary. The noises were different, the air was different, and I was always expecting a large spider, snake, or bat to follow me right into that little space. Thankfully it didn't because I know if I had screamed the children would have come running as they were always concerned about our safety.
Another time I found myself on a trail in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia with my soul sister and our bikes. We took a wrong turn and ended up trying to ride our bikes on a trail that got smaller and smaller, covered with nettle, and then it started raining. In the midst of all of this it was getting darker and darker and we kept seeing bear poop all over. I knew the bears were eating dinner by this time and I was certain that I might be the evening meal. My mind raced as I began to sing loudly every song I could think of, in hopes that the bears wouldn't want to eat me. Now that I am out of that forest I realize how ridiculous I was, but at the time, in the emotion and fear of the moment, the threat seemed very real.
Today is Good Friday, one of the most solemn and holy times of worship each year. It is the day we recognize and embrace the sacrifice, the suffering, and the grief of Jesus and those who loved Him. Everything is dark in worship this day, though the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day outside. Darkness can sneak up on us sometimes. I wonder as the people gathered around the crosses if they were really aware that darkness had descended upon them. The events of the last days of Jesus' life unfolded so quickly, from parades and donkeys to courts of law and criminals. It all seemed to go downhill so quickly. The disciples were afraid for their own lives so they hid, their lives turned upside down with the arrest and punishment of the one they had come to know as the Messiah. Darkness hung in the air as their identities as leaders of this new movement became something to hide. Darkness can cause us to ask that difficult question, "Who am I?"
I imagine this is the very question Jesus' mother asked herself many times, the same for Lazarus who'd been brought back to life, the same for the blind man, the bleeding woman, the woman at the well, Jairus and his daughter, and the countless other people that had been touched by the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. Perhaps you have experienced that creeping darkness too. I have. There have been times in this last year when pondering that question of "Who am I?" has overwhelmed, saddened, and defeated me. When things seem so complicated that a solution is nowhere to be found, when that voice in my head tells me I'm not doing enough, working hard enough, just plain enough...that's when the darkness creeps in.
Today I have been thinking about this darkness. I think in some ways darkness defines our worth. That day as Jesus was nailed to the cross and the darkness fell over the earth I can only assume that the people began to wonder about their identity. The darkness only emphasized the mission: that God would go to the scariest, worst, murkiest place in order that we realize our worth. Maybe it's in the dark times that we set aside our pride, our egos, even that which makes us self-conscious or passive. The darkness is a level-playing field, the place where we like those who were there that day near the cross, realize that it is the love of God that connects us, and that we really are all in this together. If Jesus went through this for me, He did it for you too....and for all other people. Suddenly all that divides us seems so petty, so ridiculous, so sinful.
The death of Jesus is easy to overlook as we head quickly into Easter celebrations and resurrection worship services, but I think we need to stay right here. In this space of grief, of fear, of the unknown, this is where we can grasp onto the immeasurable gift of a God who knows us, not one who judges us harshly for our failures and weaknesses, but a God who embraces us in our sadness, one who comes alongside when the road gets dark, when we can't see our hands in front of our faces, when we think the "bears" that we cannot see are going to come and get us.
Who am I? Who are you? Really think about it. Who ARE you? Whose are you?
What gives us worth, what defines us?
Oh God, help us live with intention, help us relate to one another as human beings, show us how to make peace, show us how to bring light into the darkness of power-hungry politics and warring madness. Help us to look in the mirror and recognize that our very breath is of You, that if we have life we have purpose. Make us light.