The pain is the terror which wakes you in the small hours. It’s the sweat rolling down your brow; it’s desperate prayer beyond words; it’s abandonment by friends who cannot bear to watch. It’s the gut-wrench of betrayal; the hollowness of a false kiss. It’s the scourge of the whip; the agony of thorns; the spear thrust in the side. It’s God-forsakenness, for God is nowhere to be found. This is the unbearable pain of crucifixion; in the suffering, something must die.
Then, the waiting. And the waiting is interminable, a prolonged nightmare of absence and darkness, fear and doubt. Whispers of old stories, fragments of ancient promises, surface then disappear into the murk. Hope feels like falsehood; life reeks of death; the night seems endless.
But then, the rising. And the rising is so unimaginable, so strange and surprising, that when it happens you barely recognise it. It’s familiar yet foreign, not the old life restored but a life made new. And in this newness you glimpse truth, you glimpse light, you glimpse love; and you know the joy of communion. You are scarred, yet you are whole. And no matter how persistent the pain, how prolonged the waiting, there is this: when you go on the journey – experiencing the pain, enduring the waiting – then the rising is guaranteed.
And through it all – the pain, the waiting, the rising – women bear witness. Which I, as both pastor and woman, do for you, and as every one of you must at some time do for me, and for others.
This is the gospel journey in a nutshell. The Christ which suffers is the Christ which saves; and so this is the Christ we follow. And since there is no life without pain, we go on this journey with him over and over again. For there is no rising without suffering, without enduring; but in every rising there is yet more newness of life, and deep and abiding joy.
Reflect: When have you journeyed from pain through waiting to rising? What newness of life did it bring? Pray about it.
Emailed to Sanctuary 4 August 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. ‘First the pain …’ riffs on a comment made by Glennon Doyle in an interview with Krista Tippett, On Being #976. Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach. Courage is the presence of fear, and going anyway. Find it here. Photo by Frantisek Duris on Unsplash.
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