We never thought today would be like this, never considered we could lose so much. Death keeps shattering us, our plans and expectations with loss upon loss. Everything is upended. We are sad, so sad at all that has happened and is happening. It is confusing. Life is so strange. Things don’t make sense anymore. What in the world happens next?
Two companions are talking this way on the road to Emmaus, sharing grief. They talk of Jesus, their friend, whom they expected would save them, but who was betrayed, killed, and buried. There is talk of the body missing, and people supposedly seeing angels.
We are talking this way, talking much of our grief at so much death and loss. Talking of we have lost or fear losing: loved ones, health, employment, plans, and direction. The disorientation of life upended: staying at home, now all the time with the same people or so starkly alone, of aching added work or loss of work, with little idea what’s next or when this will change.
As the two walk to Emmaus, Jesus comes and walks alongside. They don’t recognize the one whom they most love and grieve. He is a stranger to them. Jesus asks about their conversation, sees and hears their sadness, and then shares about his own suffering, talking through scripture.
This is Easter: feeling loss and disorientation, being face-first with death, long talks of grief, being confused, and receiving a stranger’s compassionate presence. Easter is not with bright lights or heroic appearance, not with quick fixes or easy answers. There are times when we do not see, cannot perceive that Jesus is here alive with us.
Jesus came to Mary as she visited the tomb and supposed him to be a gardener, to a frightened community gathered behind locked doors, to a group out fishing for whom he provided breakfast, and for these two friends, on the way in their sad talk.
The simplicity surprises us, for it is not as special as we might expect. Resurrection comes right where we are now, amid difficult emotions, perplexing questions, as we walk and eat. Frederick Buechner wrote: “Jesus is apt to come into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable moments. … He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.”[i]
Jesus comes and walks with us where we are, amid challenges and grief, amid darkness and despair, when life hurts and makes no sense, when we are bent under the weight of heavy hearts, when lips tremble and tears flow. This is Easter. Jesus comes to be alongside in our current pain and sadness. Jesus is alive here with us, compassionate and curious, oh so human, and friend. Listening to our heartache, sharing his own stories of suffering, and breaking bread together.
If you don’t feel the alleluias, or if you are blind and weighed down in grief, you are not alone. Many of us feel the same. Jesus is alive and present alongside including when we don’t see. So like the two companions on the road, speak your grief. Jesus is persistent, surprising, and personal, coming with love to comfort, console, and confirm. As before and on the cross, Jesus comes not as we expect.
As we collectively and personally face much death and compounded loss, keep praying the pain. If you are looking for words, try about half of the psalms for they show us how to lament. Lament is a cry of pain, a cry for help, and a cry of trust. It is stark and boldly real about pain and suffering, and it assumes being heard. Lament is not just for Lent or Holy Week. It is our ancient prayer. It’s for life, for being human. Keep praying your lament now in our world of grief.
I appreciate psychiatrist Curt Thompson’s reflections. He encourages us to not deny our losses or diminish them by trying to compare with someone else. Your grief is real, and it is yours. Thompson also suggests writing down each day at least one thing you have lost, or are losing. Then also name a couple things for which you are thankful. In this way, pray both grief and gratitude. Tell someone you trust your grief and your gratitude. [ii] Speak it along the hard road, and listen to others. Pray your life as you experience it.[iii]
Jesus persistently comes including when we can’t perceive. Not in dazzling power but in shared stories of suffering, Jesus walks and breaks bread with us. This is Easter. We are not alone. Present alongside, oh so human and friend, Jesus gently fans our soul’s faint embers into flame.
[i] Frederick Buechner. (1966) The Magnificent Defeat. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
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