Column: A Little Bit of Good Friday…
A Little Bit of Good Friday and A Little Bit of Easter In All Our Lives
By Icy Frantz
Easter arrived late this year when spring had already sprung, and then, just like that, it was over. My pastor says that the week preceding Easter is the most important time of the Christian year. What a week it is, full of action and drama and special effects that would likely be the envy of the directors of movies like Mad Max and, dating myself here, Indiana Jones. There are feasts, betrayals, processions, a crucifixion, loss, resurrection and elation. As a mother, I spent a lot of time last week stuffing eggs, filling baskets, looking up recipes and counting chicks. How many of our children would be home with us for church and brunch on Sunday? Now, that my chicks have returned to their homes away from home and the eggs have been stored for another year, I have time to reflect. I have managed to extract a new meaning of Holy week, a week that culminates in a huge crescendo on Friday and Sunday, and I have become aware of a pattern that I had not recognized before. I have learned that there is a little bit of Good Friday and Easter in all of our lives throughout the year.
I am not qualified to make a statement with any degree of authority about the meaning of Easter. In fact, I am not qualified to make a statement about Christianity. I have never mastered the Bible and am completely envious of those who can miraculously navigate their well-worn Bible to find a passage within seconds of commencing a search or can recite scripture for every possible occasion. I can’t pray out loud, and I still negotiate with God, a lot. We raised our children in various local churches and on Sunday mornings we gave them a quarter to spend at Ada’s Candy Store if they could tell us one thing that they had learned from the sermon. One son used to repeat, “God is good” every week, and we rationalized that that was a pretty good place to start. And yet, once I got a call from my daughter’s piano teacher: “Icy, Today I explained what the cross on a hot crossed bun represented and your daughter asked me, slightly horrified, do people still die that way?” Granted my daughter was young, but it was a clear sign that we needed to spend more time in church pews and less time on athletic fields. So, you may not want to put all of your eggs in this Christian’s proverbial basket but Confession stated, I share with you my one small brushstroke taken from the intricate masterpiece that is Easter.
I remember hearing a sermon once about the importance of Good Friday. In essence, the pastor spoke about remaining with the pain and loss of Good Friday and not rushing ahead prematurely to Easter. There are important lessons that need to be learned on Friday. Stay with it. Be present.
I know that in my life, I have witnessed and had my own personal Good Fridays. They have been both big and small: a friendship turned sour, a lost job, 9/11, a Tsunami or natural disaster, the throes of addiction, the death of a friend, parent and child. These have been moments of complete despair and despondence, times when I questioned my beliefs and wondered how I could possibly continue, not knowing that Easter would come.
But, Easter does come. It may not look like what we expected, if we expected anything at all. It may send us out in a new direction or path, opening doors we never knew existed or it may expand our way of thinking, changing and teaching us to be more empathetic and understanding. It may bring a community together, encouraging individuals to put more value in the greater good than in singular aspirations, or it may stop us in our tracks, knowing that without the experience of Good Friday, life would be much smaller.
Although Easter may not erase the pain of Good Friday, Easter gives us reason to rejoice again, it transports us out of the depth of our despair. And it is this pattern of loss, grief, despair, followed by clarity and celebration, that stood out for me this year.
Easter is much more than a silver lining. Jesus died on the cross and two days later he rose from the dead, and in doing so, altered the course of history for Christians. A silver lining is less permanent and less transformative. It’s the grasping of the good that may come out of a bad situation. True Easters are deeper and life changing.
Most Americans have a special bond with sporting competitions. The attraction is carefree, fun and flirty, although pretty big business for those intimately involved. In the last month, there were two athletic stories that stole our hearts and demonstrated, albeit in a lighthearted way, the Good Friday-Easter pattern.
A year ago, Virginia Men’s basketball team was the number-one seed in the NCAA Division one tournament. They had won their conference only to be beaten in the first round of the championship. Yes, they had made history. Virginia was the first #1 seed to be taken out in the first round by the #16 seed. It was devastating and embarrassing and it was their Good Friday.
Fast forward a year. Once again Virginia wins the ACT conference and is seeded #1 in the Division One tournament. For weeks, we sat on the edge of our seats or the edge of a bar stool watching the cavaliers work their way through the bracket, close game after close game. Most of you know where I am going. Virginia did in fact win the NCAA Tournament one year after their history making loss. Wahoo for all of you Virginia fans. Their inspirational coach, Tony Bennett, refers to their 2018 performance not as a “painful loss” but a “painful gift.” The team celebrated. The fans cheered. They will never forget their Good Friday, but Virginia Men’s basketball team and their coach had found their Easter.
Then there’s Tiger and the outcome of this year’s Master’s Golf Tournament. We cheered when Tiger sunk his last putt to win the coveted Green jacket. He had experienced his Good Friday. After his fall from grace, back surgeries and the loss of his father, we were thrilled to watch him rise up and find his Easter!!
Holy Week is about Jesus and there is no story more profound and powerful. It’s about the ultimate sacrifice. It’s painful and jubilant. I have not done it justice. Can we ever?
Thinking back to bygone Easters, I picture wiggly boys dressed in wrinkly blue blazers, a little too small for their growing bodies and a daughter dressed in her shiny Mary Janes adding graffiti to the Easter program with crayons provided by the church. What will their earned quarters reveal this year? I hope that they will find meaning, deep meaning in the Easter story, meaning that far exceeds my small interpretation. I hope that their “painful gifts” will truly transform and grow their lives and that they will find their Easter and with it the gift of salvation and resurrection. Oh, and that “God is Good” because that’s a pretty good place to start.