When You’re Struggling through Holy Week (Thursday)
There’s snow in the middle of Holy Week.
A dusting, a sugar snow, an Easter snow.
As if the whole smashed world is intent on freezing.
Doing whatever it takes, over and over again, to stay numbed to the burn of the pain.
Because somebody’s beloved kid had a womb scraped out to get rid of a kid. As if a family tree can be conveniently cut up.
A 14-year-old boy shoots himself right through and two mothers gasp for air and the funeral is for Good Friday.
Try breathing through that. Try walking to Easter and resurrection with that.
A man I’ve known since we were kids, he tells me depression has sapped his wife of anything warm blooded and pulsing, that she lies in the dark all day and won’t eat, that he carries her like a limp rag doll to the bath, that he goes to the barn and weeps where no one can see. I don’t know what to say. So my heart just fractures. I tell him I’ll pray, that I’ll ask everyone to pray.
A friend’s first born heaves on a ventilator, lungs seared. He tells me that he hasn’t left that bedside for six days.
Watch your child struggle up for air and you think a lot about Christ drowning in His own blood, the slow gurgle of grace.
You don’t give a flippant shrug about mocking chocolate bunnies and strangling pastel silk ties. You could care less about floral centerpieces when you’re breaking into pieces behind closed doors. This whole smashed world’s a bloody mess and there are people right outside the window, right behind those velum thin walls all down the street, living this slow, soundless bleed, and Holy week can feel like a hell. And that’s why He came.
In the middle of the week, we go to the woods where they pierce the trees.
Where they drive spikes right up through the willing bark.
The man who tapped the trees for sap, for maple syrup, he says you have listen for a whistling leak of air in the sap lines, you listen for the hardly howl.
Listen for it.
He says if you want any syrup, you have to walk through the woods listening, looking for the broken air leaks in the sap line. You have to go to the broken places and people, you have to clamp the leaking places with grace. There are howls everywhere, in the pulsing lines of all the living, all the feeling.
It’s part of living:
Love will always cost you grief. Love is always worth the price.
And all I can think of is, oh, the Love that bought us, the steel driven into the trees, even these trees leaking, crying, sweet on Holy Week.
Levi’s studied the poetry and hymns of Isaac Watts all week. He keeps humming hymns through the woods, like a mingling with bark.
“The sap will run straight through now till about Good Friday,” That’s what the burly, grey-haired maple syrup maker tells us. “The trees usually run till Good Friday.”
The trees cry until God hangs upon the tree.
The world moans loud, but He hears your howl. The world smiles thin, but He touches the depths of your deep grief. The world moves on, but His love moves you. He takes the nails to take your pain and He runs liquid with you.
Shalom holds a finger over a sap pail, waits.
Then there it is, there it is, and she takes it, straight to her lips.
His tears are sweet to us. Because our God’s acquainted with grief, He is intimately acquainted with us, with our thorns hidden and driven deep. We don’t cry alone.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Sap fills a bucket, makes the emptiness hum with a weeping offering. We never cry alone.
Sure — everyone loves a Christmas Tree. But’s it’s that bent Easter Tree that guarantees His love for us.
Levi bends over the bucket, listening — and I hear him —- I hear what he’s humming and I don’t even think he knows he’s humming it, like this unconscious plea:
Was it for sins that I have done he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away….
Trees are tapped for sap to make sweet, and Christ is nailed for love to wash wounds and our hearts are right broken here for heaven’s sake and we ’ll go home and put a lamb on the table and He took the cup and He gave thanks for it and He begged:
Do this in remembrance of me.
For heaven’s sake, do this:
Take your broken heart, your shattered heart, and give thanks for the heart of God who bleeds with yours and this is how your broken, dis-membered heart is re-membered – when you remember to count the ways He loves. Count, like you’re taking your own pulse, like you’re determined to keep breathing.
Remember the one thousand ways the Scarred God’s loves you, give thanks for Him in the midst of an almost hell, and your dis-membered heart re-members.
Thursday of Holy week, the bloodied and limping, the bruised and the sinners, the self-hating and soul-maiming, the howling and soundless–
– all us broken, we will remember to give thanks for His breaking and pouring out and this giving thanks is what re-members us.
“Did you hear how he said it, Mama?” Malakai asks me at a syrup dinner of pancakes in the dark of candlelight. “How the maple syrup runs just until the frogs sings?”
His face is lit in shadows.
Like the frogs know something, like all of heaven knows, and it sings relief for the sacrifice of the Tree.
And I pour out more of the dark maple syrup and I taste the sweet on my tongue.
And our God is not a God to merely believe, but to experience, not to only believe in, but be held by. A God who not only breaks for you but breaks with you, a God to not only have creeds about, but to have communion with, a God who not only who dies for you, but who cries with you, the God who touches you and binds you and blesses you and heals you and re-members you because He let Himself be dismembered and He is the God we not only believe in— but we know. We know – know beyond a shadow of doubt, death or despair.
He has touched our tears. He has cupped our broken hearts with His scars. He has whispered to the howl, “I know, I know. And I’ve come to begin the making of all things new.” We believe. Because we know. He knows our grief. We know His goodness. And the truth is – we don’t need an explanation from God like we need an experience of God.
And that is exactly what we get.
We get that experience of God when He stretches open His arms on that Cross and cries,
“For you. For all your regrets and for all your impossibles, for all that will never be and for all that once was, for all that you can’t make right and for all that you got wrong, for your Judas failures and your Peter denials and your Lazarus griefs, I offer to take the nails, the sharp edge of everything, and offer you myself because I want you, to take you, you in your wild grief, you in your anger and your disappointment and your wounds and your not-yet-there, you, just as you are, not some improved version of you, but you – I came for you, to hold you, to carry you, to save you.”
The thanks, the yes — it could come like sweet relief.
The broken hearts — they could re-member.
The lament — it could be absorbed in love.
And I taste of holy week, taste of what of runs from that Tree, taste and experience grace and He is good.
All this Easter snow, this sugar snow, coming down like the purest redemption.