This is the in-between day, the often-forgotten day. Yet what a day! It’s a day that encapsulates so much of our life—the in-between times, the waiting, the here-but-not-yet. It’s a day of stillness, a day of unknown, a day of suspense, a day of fear, a day of longing.
Jesus has died; so many have died. So much in our lives has changed, transformed, or maybe just been obliterated. What do we do in the aftermath? In the here but not yet? In the wake of the destruction without a horizon yet of what is to come?
This is Holy Saturday, the embodiment of the waiting. In our culture, this is shaky ground. We’re used to immediate gratification, and even when we do have to wait for something, it’s easy to fill it—with music, podcasts, Facebook, organizing something, planning something, texting someone. What has happened to the just being, to the suspension of being held in the in-between space?
Today I am with Mary of Magdala, at the tomb of Christ. She waits in her utter grief, in the unknown, bound by the tether of her heart, forever bound to His, in her love for the Christ. Perhaps she wanted to run, like the others. Perhaps she wishes she wasn’t alone there, perched on the rocks, in the darkness and the palpable fear. I think she was too tired to do anything else. I think her lament wiped her out so totally, that all she could do was stay.
I remember thinking, the week after my sister died, that I would probably die too. My body felt dead, my mind, certainly my heart. My soul? I no longer trusted Her at all. I had spent almost three weeks begging God to let Caity live, damn it! I had raged and resisted, fought and demanded. I heard Jesus whispering to me “I got her, Er” and I screamed back at him, “NO! You don’t get her. I want her. I need her!” Now I know that I was hearing a reality that had always been true and always will be true. Caity was always in the heart of God, as God was in her heart and I am now in the heart they share. But at the time, all I could do was rage and weep and fight. I’m not sure how my family made it through that long vigil, midwifing her into death. We barely slept. We prayed constantly. We sang to her over and over and over: You are loved, you are loved, you are loved, you ARE love. And we were there when she breathed her last breath. That day, when they took her body away, and we finally got to go home, we collapsed onto couches and watched stupid TV, wanting nothing, wanting blank minds, wanting to fall asleep. I thought maybe I would never wake up.
Is this something of what Mary felt at the tomb of Jesus? I imagine so, magnified. The Christ, the embodiment of Love, the one come to save the world, died. She saw it with her own eyes. She saw him bleed, she saw him cry out to God for help, she heard him breathe his last. I’m sure there was utter confusion, disbelief. And yet, she stayed. She waited. I believe something was still alive in there, whether she could feel it or not. Something in her heart continued to beat with belief, with knowing, still tied to His heart. Maybe she was afraid, but something pierced her fear enough to keep her there, waiting.
What of our own waiting, all the waitings of our lives? Maybe it’s the waiting for a job, for meaningful work. Maybe it’s the 9 months of waiting for new life, the waiting for a declaration of remission, the waiting for a coming move, the waiting for peaceful passage into death. Maybe it’s the desperate wait for ease from the acute pain of lost love. Maybe it’s the waiting out of four years of a presidency, the waiting for deeper security, the big, long waiting for a better world. Maybe it’s the long wait we endure between who we are and who we want to be. All our waitings, big and small, are held in this day of unimaginable waiting, the suspense between death and rising, despair and Hope. We know the end of this story, but there are so many stories we don’t know the end of. I like to remember myself into Mary this day, and all the others who, that day, didn’t know the end of the story.
Do we feel the aliveness, here, in the in-between? Can we trust it’s pulse, no matter how quiet? Can we choose that, choose life, and love, even when we can’t see it yet?