A reflection for Good Friday and Holy Saturday; Mobile, AL, March 2016. 

{Cardboard, newspaper, coffee filter, plastic packaging, duct tape, acrylic paint, water color pencil, marker, chalk pastel, glass, and cotton string.}

In the last few years I’ve found myself more and more captivated by Holy Week. Easter is a crowd favorite, of course, but what I’ve been drawn to is the stuff between celebrations. The quiet moments of betrayal, doubt, and grief that saturate the days between Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his triumphant resurrection on Easter. I’ve mentioned before  a favorite Barbara Johnson (by way of Anne Lamott) sentiment — that we’re Easter people living in a Good Friday world. I’m still all about that, but lately the world has felt more and more, shall we say, Good Friday-y. Just in the last two weeks terror has ripped through communities across the world, from Belgium to Turkey (twice) to Nigeria. Political rhetoric in our own country is increasingly volatile and blatant discrimination has hit too close to home (not, for the record, that discrimination is okay anywhere).

So here we are. Good Friday. Jesus has been put to death by brutal capital punishment and we are left to wait in the dark. The church where I work remembered Jesus’s crucifixion in a tenebrae worship service, and it was my task to put out a candle after each Scripture passage. The physical act — especially extinguishing the last one — was a surprisingly moving experience. To be the one smothering light as we heard Jesus’s last words added a tangible element to my Good Friday understanding that I can’t say had been there before. As wisps of smoke curled up from the last candle I could almost hear, almost feel, the heavy exhale of Jesus’s last breath. Maybe it was more a sigh of long-awaited relief. Maybe it was both. More.

I suppose for a hope-clinger like me, Easter is the big show. In the midst of it all we know that death doesn’t have the final word because eventually the sun will rise over an empty tomb. We know, so to speak, how the story ends. But jumping right to Easter feels a little like skipping an entire book — the depth of the characters and the richness of the plot — just to read the last page.

So here we are. Good Friday. And I kept imagining a just-snuffed candle, complete with the charred smell of a smoking wick. The smell lingers, whether it’s in a darkened sanctuary or my lamp-lit living room. In this particular visual candle question, newspaper is part of the background, again representing current events and darkness-feeding discourse. Look closely at the bottom left corner and you’ll find a fence. Maybe it’s for the border walls some people want to build or maybe it’s for the smaller ones we lean on every day to separate ourselves from things and people we don’t understand. But if there’s anything we can learn in the darkness maybe it’s that we’re all there at some point or another. For some reason or another.

So here we are. Sitting through Saturday too. Waiting for Easter. Fear-filled as this waiting may be, the candle’s wick is still glowing. Just barely, but anyone who’s rebuilt a fire from embers knows that that’s all you need.