Monday, April 2, 2018

Post-Traumatic Easter

 Image result for pieta michelangelo
The image to the right is the Pieta by Michelangelo. It is a sculpture of Mary holding the body of her son Jesus after he is taken off the cross. This past Good Friday I found myself thinking of that image. As a father of two little boys I am now, in a very small way, beginning to comprehend the grief of Michelangelo’s Mary as she holds Jesus, her dead son.

The following day, Holy Saturday, we were at an Easter egg hunt when Zach got into a fire ant nest. It turns out he is highly allergic to fire ants and we quickly had to rush him to the ER, as his little body was covered in hives and was swelling badly (eyes nearly swollen shut). He was ultimately okay- we spent the rest of the day at the hospital but were able to make it home in time for bed, and we were beyond thankful for God’s grace through the process and for the amazing staff and doctors at the hospital.

Obviously, the incident was a terrifying and painful experience for all of us. Watching our dear son’s body swell and discolor is something I hope to never again witness. By the time we made it home that night we were completely exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. You can therefore imagine that Easter was not a big celebration in our home this year. We all woke up thankful, but still very tired and traumatized and overwhelmed… ready to sit for a while, smile at the fact we were all together at home, and perhaps cry because we just didn’t have much else left in us.

All of this made me think about the first resurrection; about the trauma of Jesus’ friends and family watching him get crucified and die. It made me re-think the easy triumphalism of our celebrations, and our dismissal of their disbelief and their struggle to adequately (in our estimation) celebrate his return. They must have been utterly exhausted and traumatized by his death, and of course afraid that their deaths would come soon as well. So while I don’t doubt that there were moments of joyful celebration when they finally “got it,” my guess is they probably needed to sit or sleep for a while, drink a glass of wine or two, and just be still and quiet because they didn't have the strength for anything else. My guess is that the Mary who is so beautifully rendered in the Pieta, would, after a joyful greeting of her son, need to sit for a good while longer as she continued to struggle with the horror of his now reversed death.

What all this reminded me of is that it is possible to be both filled with joy and thanksgiving and tiredness and confusion all at once. My guess is that many disciples of Jesus feel this way even this post-Easter morning. The festivities have faded (though perhaps some candy is left over), but the painful memories and traumas still remain. And though they may not be as sharp in the light of the resurrection, they are still present.

If you find yourself in that place, then I invite you to simply rest in the resurrection today. You don’t have to smile and cheer and sing happy songs or eat cake or play nice with relatives. You can sit alone for a bit, or sit with friends. You can drink a glass of wine or share a meal. After all, that’s what those first disciples did. And if you’re confused and tired and overwhelmed, that’s okay. The beauty of this resurrection thing is that through God’s grace life does go on and it doesn’t depend on us. There will be plenty more time to celebrate. If a stillness born out of trust is the extent to which we can testify to the resurrection at the moment, then let us be still until the Resurrected One moves us back into action.

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