Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Choosing to strike a match to light a flame in this darkness is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Opening my eyes to take in its glow, permitting it to reorient me to the reality that surrounds me. Allowing myself the time to gaze upon the long shadows it casts, flickering through the veil of the night. Grieving what I’ve lost while clinging to gratitude for what I’ve been given. It feels like the dance between the flame and the darkness, fronting back and forth. One moment in balance, the next on the brink of being extinguished, finally leaping from the wick to chase away the dark in a quick moment of defiance. I’m still learning it, and I expect it will be a lesson I’ll learn for the rest of my days.

It is not lost on me that one of my greatest disappointments in life has fallen during this holy week. The one right after the day people cried out, raising palm branches high, “hosanna! save us!" They believed their light had finally arrived. But within a few days, all that would change. Soon they would scream out, “crucify him!” The man they thought was their messiah, the light in the dark, was nailed to a cross. The earth groaned and shook, and complete darkness fell upon the land. Yet curiously, when we read this account in John’s gospel, we get a spoiler alert.

I’ve got a bad habit, I’ll fully admit. I often read the last chapter of a book before reading the first, just to make sure its worth reading. Why waste my time if it doesn’t end well? And by well, I don’t just mean happy. I mean fulfilling. Maybe that’s why I like John so much. He knows that there will be readers like me who need to know the end before they read the whole story. So by the fifth sentence of his gospel, he lets us in on the truth that everything is going to turn out okay. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When I finally get to the climax of the story, where all hope seems to be lost, where the darkness has clearly overcome the light, I’m left a little confused. How could this happen? John said it was going to be ok.

A few sentences later, we find Mary walking in the dark toward the tomb of Jesus. Further into the passage it is revealed that Jesus meets her in the garden. Alive. For a moment, she doesn’t recognize him. But then he says her name and she sees him for who he is. I can only imagine that scene is much like one of these Santa Barbara mornings that begin completely socked in with fog. It obscures the sun entirely as I wake up and rise from my bed. I walk to the kitchen, turn on the hot water for a cup of tea, and peer through the windows checking for a break in the clouds. Out the window to the north, the east, the south. Nothing. Then, without warning, one ray of sunlight fights its way through. And within an hour, the sky is clear and the sun is shining.   

In a moment, Mary is bathed in light as she sees Jesus once again. Her friend, her teacher, her Lord. I think its pretty special that she was the first one who got to see Jesus. In a culture that didn’t give much value to women, Jesus revealed himself to her. But I also have to think it had something to do with proximity, she was near to him on that morning. On the darkest, coldest morning, she went to him. And she found him to be so more more than she could ever possibly imagine.

I guess where I’m left is sitting in front of a candle with a box of matches. Today is the day John Mark should've been born, April 11th. As we stood at his grave this morning, my husband shook his head. "This isn't where we're supposed to be today." He's right. This isn't how it was supposed to turn out, and I still have a million questions. But I also know that tomorrow I have the choice whether or not to strike that match against the side of the box. Tomorrow morning, like so many other mornings since my son died, will feel dark. Too dark. But I’ve read the whole story, and I know that the light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it.

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