Most people don’t think about the Saturday in between Good Friday and Easter. If anything it’s a day in between. A day when we make what we can the day before and keep it in the fridge, little girls look longingly at their Easter dress, counting the hours until they can put it on. And with this excitement of the oncoming morning, we rush over what that Saturday must have been like if you put yourself in any part of the Easter story at all.
Over the past two years I have found my understanding of what “Holy Saturday” means deepening.
For the past two years I have been struggling with thoughts of suicide.
It is almost impossible to write another line after that last one. All the things I want to tell you either seem like an absurd effort to minimise a very real situation or else a vain attempt to offer myself congratulations for making it through. Neither is my intent here. I beg you to stay with me and read this through rather than offer all the platitudes in the comments section below.
Will you do that for me, please?
Much of the desire from wanting to kill myself came when I was at last pressed face to face with the social injustices of the world. When my electric wheelchair was destroyed in October 2015 and I was left without any form of recompense or mobility for almost a year, it went in the face everything I had every been taught about so called “cooperate responsibility.”
When several people I assumed were loved ones failed to imagine me complexly and allow me room to grow, it nearly pushed me over the edge.
Upon discovering just how weak the law and legal structures are at protecting my right to independence, a job, an education, safety, and everything else we are supposed to be able to take for granted in the ‘privileged west,’ I was slammed with the realisation there was still no place for someone with a disability in society.
Add to that the election of Trump, Brexit, the attack on individual rights and the disaster of the past 100 days the White House has managed to bring us, and most sane people have been feeling a little fragile of late.
To be clear, I am one of the “lucky ones.” A combination of my parents love, a hugely privileged education, the massive blessing of being able to print words on a page and communicate exactly what I mean to an audience, and relative financial stability has given me a leg up that I never earned. This in combination with the deep and trusting friendships that remain have bolstered me like a buoy to pull me through rough waters. For now.
Good relationships break up, companies fail individuals, politics create a backlash, people hurt each other, boarders get closed, we are all careless sometimes. None of these situations are unique to me. A lot of it is just life.
But if I am struggling with a legitimate desire to kill myself, just imagine what that who lack a stable support structure must be feeling. If you are taught by politicians that you have no value, if you have never been give the tools to persuasively express yourself, if you never see anyone like you portrayed in the media, if, when the rubber meets the road you find yourself separated from certain rights which are supposedly ‘unalienable,’ where does one find the momentum to keep going?
It is a fact that when somebody cannot find their place the risk of suicide is higher. Sociologists have seen it over and over during watershed moments in social history such as the industrial revolution; if people are denied a place in society, no matter how “well off” they may objectively seem, their mental health is at risk.
And what does any of this have to do with Easter?
“We live in a fallen world, get over it,” D. A. Carson sometimes says in his sermons. It’s advice I often find myself echoing internally during hard times. It is a sentence my inner voice often repeats in the lead up towards Easter. I find it helps keep things in a healthy perspective. Even in the face of Easter, things in this world won’t always work out the way they should.
Whether you are a Christian or not, nothing points the that fact that this world is terribly in need of repair than a story about an innocent, refugee from a minority being executed without reason by the state. These days the story feels oddly familiar and relevant.
This year, Holy Saturday means more to me than it ever has. The time between Christ’s death and resurrection must have seemed to be the most hopeless thirty six hours in the history of the world, at least to those who thought that Christ was going to be a Messiah. Without any sign of what was coming on Sunday morning, the disciples were criminals in hiding, men who put their trust in the wrong person, and now were scared to death of what the future now held for them. They were in no way waiting with expectation for Sunday. The disciples were terrified.
Today, I find myself focusing on Judas more that on Jesus, and I think that is appropriate. The story goes that it is within the gap of time between the crucifixion and resurrection that Judas killed himself. Most of us are attracted to the idea that Judas felt so guilty about his betrayal that he couldn’t help but crawl into a hole and die.
I don’t buy it.
After all, Peter managed to deny Christ multiple times after being expressly told he was going to do so. John and others fell asleep in the garden, and about everyone else failed Christ in the hours of his greatest need. If being a really big screw up is a prerequisite for suicide, Judas doesn’t exactly carry the bulk of the blame.
I think Judas had lost hope.
When, as the story goes, Judas threw a rope over a tree branch and made a noose, I’m sure there was guilt, a deep sense of failure and a longing to take back what he had done. But more than that, I think Judas must have been unable to fathom how things could ever be made right again, where there could ever be a place for him after what he has done, and broken person could bring about more love and healing.
I get that.
This world can suck. That fact is not going away no matter who gets elected or what regulations are passed. Regardless of what your worldview is, we are living through troubling and desperate days. At times there is very little guarantee of a happy ending, particularly when we find ourselves under the weight of oppression or sorrow. If the state of the world drives you to a crushing sadness, might I suggest that we are meant to feel that way.
We live in a Saturday world.
From pets dying to splintered relationships, thoughtless comments to impending world wars, the signs of brokenness are overwhelming. It is easy to lose hope and even harder to capture it again once it slips from our grasps. But we are called to notice this shattered would because it is so broken, if only to find the inertia to keep moving towards hope, or at the very least hold on until a new day dawns.
It is dark now in my bedroom. The sun has long set and there is only a period of rest between now and Easter morning. Knowing that there is hope, that morning will come, and with it will come the peace of belonging is a privilege Judas never had. But it is in this understanding of what the Saturday before Easter means that we are given the most hope.
For once we understand that it is indeed hard for everyone to hold on, that we are all fragile, and that the hope of tomorrow morning is not dependent on anything we do or believe, but rooted firmly in something beyond ourselves, we start looking toward Sunday more longingly than ever before.
The Period Route
March 24, 2017
Subtitles? Transcriptions? The debate with disability and media