You’ll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love’s confusing joy.
– Rumi –
See! I am making everything new!
– Jesus –
“But Mary stood weeping.”
– John 20:11 –
I have some good, good, good fucking news this Monday-after.
We’re the ones who will see the Lord first.
Yes, us. The Holy Saturday people. The ones still hanging around this abandoned tomb, crying because we haven’t gotten over it yet.
We’re the ones who will see the new thing as soon as it is born.
I need that good news, because I’m burned out from crying and Lord knows I’m ready to see the new thing. Growing up in the evangelical church, and struggling with the feelings of betrayal and loss over the last few years, has taken a toll. In the last five years as a queer woman in the church, I’ve mourned a lot of losses. I survived the Nashville Statement and World Vision and Eugene Peterson, while trying to keep my heart soft and my eyes clear to see Christ in my neighbor and see the Kingdom in the Church.
It’s so hard to keep your heart soft and your eyes clear. So the Good Friday people – the ones who yelled and protested and fucked shit up – became the Holy Saturday people, sleeping through our alarms, eating comfort food, and hanging around the tombs of the things that we loved while everyone else is getting back to their lives.
Lots of people have opinions about the Holy Saturday mourners. Stop being so sensitive. Move on. Get yourself an #ExJesusFollower hashtag and move the hell on from that tomb. You were abandoned by Jesus. He told you that he would fix this mess, that he would win, that it was worth it to leave behind a normal life to be a traveling religious cult-follower and it wasn’t. He got killed. He lied to you.
He lied to you.
I wonder what Mary was crying for when she stood by that empty tomb.
He lied to me.
Oh, Mary, my sister.
Did the other disciples roll their eyes at you? Did they wrestle with their own mixture of self-hatred, guilt, embarrassment at being taken in, the wool pulled over their eyes? Were their hearts already hardening into cynicism on Holy Saturday? Were they already making fun of you – the disciple who just wouldn’t get over it?
You gave up everything so that you could tag along with that good old boys club, and you seemed so delighted to give up everything. It seemed like there was nothing you’d rather do than sit on the floor in front of the One you loved and waste perfume on Him. That’s what it feels like to fall in love, I guess. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s just the only thing that makes sense. It made sense to me when I was fifteen and memorized Philippians in case I got imprisoned for my faith overseas as a missionary. It made sense when I was in college and spending more time volunteering with Intervarsity than on my college coursework. It made made sense when I was applying to grad schools and writing rambly essays about being a queer feminist and wanting to be an evangelical pastor anyway because “someone has got to stay in the evangelical church to fight for justice!”
It always makes sense to give it all up for Love’s confusing joy.
But now it’s Holy Saturday. Here are all the broken-hearted religious kids, and we’re out of perfume, and all we have is a tomb. We gave it all up joyfully, but now our movement is bankrupt, our revival is riddled with hypocrisy, and even our Lover seems to be silent. We’ve lived through a Good Friday that has lengthened into a never-ending dusky liminal space of Holy Saturday. We’ve screamed at the sky when the sun turned black, and punched the stone rolled in front of the tomb until our knuckles bled, and everyone around us has moved on – they’ve either gone home or are dancing to Easter Sunday music that we don’t hear.
This Gospel story is for the broken-hearted Marys who stay at the tomb long after everyone else leaves, embarrassed that we’re still here crying but not budging an inch.
This Good News story in John 20 tells us that we are the ones who will see the New Thing first, before anyone else.
Yes, us, the Holy Saturday people who look ridiculous because we won’t stop mourning. Yes, us, the heartbroken, stubborn ones who won’t listen to logic and will sit at the tomb of our Lover until our grief has run its course. Yes, us, the religious kids who feel betrayed, the queer kids who just wanted to follow Jesus, and everyone who got crushed in the wheels of the religious machine. To us all, this Good News story says –
do not leave this tomb until you’re ready.
Do not leave this tomb until you see Jesus.
If everyone around you is celebrating Easter, and you feel like you’re trapped on Holy Saturday – stay right here. Don’t move an inch. It’s not “Resurrection” when you pretend something dead is alive, pretend you’re happy when you’re broken-hearted, fake it til you make it. When Resurrection comes, you won’t have to pretend, because you’ll know it. You can’t possibly miss it, loves, you will not miss one second of it.
But what if He already rose and I missed him? What if there’s work to do and I miss it while I cry here at the tomb? Am I wasting time crying? And what if, like Mary, I look over at the New Thing and don’t even know that it’s Jesus? What if the New Thing, the Resurrected Religion, the Resurrected Lover, comes to me, and I don’t have a damn clue who it is? After all the Bible verses I memorized, after all the volunteer work, after Biblical Hebrew and Systematic Theology and a seminary degree and a fucking religious blog – what if Jesus is resurrected, and I don’t recognize Him?
Oh, fuck yes, that is really scary.
But here is what I know.
Jesus doesn’t need me to recognize Him.
Jesus will recognize me.
While Mary is crying so hard that she can’t even recognize her Lover: “Jesus said, ‘Mary.'”
As soon as Jesus says her name, Mary knows that it’s Him. “My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says, “and I know them.”
I don’t need to understand the Resurrected Christ, thank God. I don’t need to have my shit together, or be emotionally prepared, or have a theological thesis ready, or do anything except show up at the tomb. I don’t need to pretend Good Friday never happened. I don’t need to pretend it’s Easter Sunday already. I can just show up, as I am – mascara smudged from my pillowcase and a little hung over – and trust that my Lover knows my name, and that when He calls me, I will know His voice.
So to all the stubborn Holy Saturday people – hang on. Stay at the tomb. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s time to go if you’re not ready yet. And don’t worry that you’ll miss the new thing, that you won’t understand it, that it’ll sneak away from under your nose, because we don’t follow a movement or a revolution (you can miss those), but we are here for Love’s confusing joy, and Love is a Person, and He knows your name.