It was days later, when I looked at the Crucifixion icon on the wall that I realized the truth: I've been invited into the Savior's lament.
~ He had come up the stairs from his room and just blurted it out. Our guests had arrived and we were all standing around the table in that jumble of where-do-I-sit? and oh-I-forgot-the-pitcher-of-water; I still had the steaming dish of chicken in my pot-holdered hands leaning over to set it down. After his announcement, the room went silent for an awkward thirty seconds and then our guests gathered their wits and cleared their throats and started to pull out chairs and I set down the hot dish and my husband looked steadily at me as if to give me all his courage. That good man, a moment later he had found a smile somewhere and said brightly, "We should pray." The prodigal was still standing. His eyes were on me, probably because he knew I was the one who would react, but I couldn't think what I was supposed to do at all and so I closed my eyes for the grace and said "amen" with the rest of them. The prodigal sat down and stared at his plate. We passed the water, passed the salad, passed the chicken, passed the evening, and all the while my face was burning with the shock.
I crawled in bed that night and I grieved. I woke in the morning and I grieved. "I'm so sorry, Lord," I whispered over and over as if the sin was mine to repent, as if by apology I could rewrite time and bring back the lost. We went to church and I tried to find comfort - hope, maybe - in the knowledge that Easter is coming, that soon we will celebrate resurrection power, but everything there felt thin and useless. We came home as bent down and heavy as we had left.
That's when I began to really see that icon I'd hung so blithely on the wall at the beginning of Lent.
There was Jesus, gaunt, limp, His arms outstretched to hold the weight of the world's shame. The women were off to one side, weeping, and John was stunned, frozen with disbelief. There. That is where I am, I thought, and I traced with my finger the space around the cross and the grieving women. Here I am - before the tomb and the resurrected hope - right here in the space where all the world's brokenness and despair is gathered. Here I am.
Only last week I wrote: "Perhaps we...are here to say peace, nurture, kindness, faithfulness, beauty, hope, God, to a world that has forgotten how to dream those things can exist." So soon, I have to face another truth. Perhaps we are here to lament, to burn, to grieve, to bear the weight of unconfessed sin and to mourn the innocent. Perhaps we are here to lay open, naked, exposed under sin we did not commit and say "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
At noon I knelt with the midday prayers:
"The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
The prophet says of Jesus:
"Lord YAHWEH has opened my ear and I have not resisted. I have not turned away. I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting."
I looked at the weeping women again and back to Jesus' sorrowful face. Most of the disciples had run, but the women, they had stayed and looked the suffering straight on. They had let the grief sink down deep and they didn't turn away. Even in their shock and horror they kept company with the broken, despised, beaten, bloody Christ. (Oh dear heart, do you only want the company of the healing, powerful, risen Christ?)
Here I am.
Here I am.
I cannot move from this space no matter how I wish. The cross lays before me, brutal, bloody. A lament for the world and all its ancient brokenness stirs in my chest. I will not turn away, I whisper to myself; I am here to grieve, to mourn, to burn. I let the tears fall without shame and, weeping, I take my place among the women. Here I am.
During this difficult week the poets have kept me company and provided words for what I couldn't express. My heartfelt thanks to Malcolm Guite for his incredible sonnets, especially this one; (You can hear him read his poems aloud, as they are intended. Such a gift.) And to John Blase, who speaks truth plainly and isn't afraid to wonder. Thank you for writing. Thank you.