No one seems to know what to do with this day, the final day of Lent. Good Friday we know; Easter even moreso. But what do we make of the day in between?
I love the image above; it holds much insight about this day. With Calvary in the background, one disciple appears overcome with exhaustion and grief, head in lap. Another is pensive, his elbow on the grieving one, perhaps thinking about all that happened yesterday, and all Jesus had said over the time He spent with His disciples. The woman in blue appears to be in prayer, perhaps offering her grieving heart to the Lord. The man on the right offers yet another view — his eyes are wide and on his face is an ever-so-slight upward turn of his mouth, hinting at the possibility of hope; perhaps yesterday’s nightmare isn’t the end of the story?
We know the pain of Friday. We know the joy of Sunday. But what about this limbo called Saturday?
True confession — I hadn’t thought much about this until I took Dan Allender’s counseling classes this past year. He’s big on Saturday, because it is his belief, and now mine, that most of life is lived in Saturday. We all experience pain and death of many different kinds in many different ways throughout our lives. If we are Christ-followers, we also trust in the reality of the joy of the resurrection that is ultimately to come upon Jesus’ return. But here and now? With our feet on the ground?
We live sitting in Saturday.
But we don’t want to. And so the Church unfortunately tends to leap from Friday to Sunday not just in how we commemorate the story every year, but in how we think, how we pray, how we minister to one another. Ever been in a truckload of pain only to have someone tell you that it’s all going to be OK because Jesus loves you and after all, Heaven awaits? Ugh. I’ve been on both sides of that coin. (I give you all permission to slap me if I ever say anything like that to you!)
Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the hope of Heaven, but I have a new expression, “Feet on the ground, face to the sky.” This means I believe Heaven is real, but I also hope for things here on earth, while facing the realities that offer no guarantees. I long to see broken relationships reconciled; people who are sick or dying healed; global poverty and hunger ended; broken hearts mended; the evils of trafficking obliterated; the damage done to the hearts of innocent children through sexual abuse soothed and healed. And so much more. Oh. How. I. Hope.
“You gotta have faith,” some might say. Sure! But here’s what Allender helped me grasp — faith looks backward; it’s based on God’s faithfulness and goodness throughout the ages. It is our firm foundation to be sure. God guarantees He will never leave us or forsake us and He has proven that over centuries and centuries of generations. However, hope looks forward and has no guarantees. NONE. Not in this life. Only in the next.
Allender brazenly says, “We hate hope,” and he’s right, because REAL hope isn’t pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-by-and-by. Real hope lives on the ground and it hurts. When we hope we risk more pain, more disappointment. We all know about that; some of us live in fear of that, and so we allow fear to kill hope.
If we’re honest, we live in the limbo of Saturday most of the time. Every now and then dreams do come true, people are healed, and relationships are mended. But not always. No guarantees. Anyone who tells you that all you need to do is “pray this prayer” or “stand on this Scripture” is selling you a bill of goods. A quick read of the life Paul with his THREE shipwrecks, among other things, ought to be enough to clue us in to the idea that life in Jesus was never going to be easy, with guarantees for success at every turn.
Life in Saturday involves all the faces in the image above — grief, pensiveness, prayer, hope. And let’s not forget doubt and anger, among others. The one thing we mustn’t do is become hardened or cynical.
That’s the greatest challenge.
For to become hardened, cynical, and/or hopeless is to kill our heart. But to weep and wail and lament and to offer every tear as worship to God…to ask questions…to ponder everything that has gone before us…to pray to the One who will never leave us, offering our desires again and again and again…and setting our faces toward the sky while our feet are firmly on the ground?
That’s what it means to be FULLY ALIVE.
I pray for all of us as we travel through painful Fridays and far-too-long Saturdays, that we will each have glimmers and tastes of Sunday along the way.
And that we will NEVER stop hoping.