18 April 2014

God is Dead Saturday

We have Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday; but what do we call that errant Saturday just sitting in the middle of tragedy and triumph? Some call it Holy Saturday, but I think that's just a cop-out like Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It can also be referred to as Easter Eve, but that feels too much like trying to skip over mourning to head straight for the resurrection and you can't get from Hosanna to Hallelujah without the Hell of the Passion. Black Saturday feels the most resonant to me, but I still feel like it's trying to skirt the issue. I prefer the title: God is Dead Saturday.

I started thinking about the day between Good Friday and Easter as God is Dead Saturday when I came across a story in my early twenties. And while this story has impacted my life, I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I read it. I'm fairly certain it was in one of the books I read while in Peru, but that doesn't narrow things down a lot. I also have no recollection of whether it was fiction or non-fiction. Regardless, I once read about a remote community that had been visited by Catholic missionaries at some point, and so had adopted parts of the Catholic religion. However, they had some of their own ideas about theology. Specifically, they believed that between sundown on Good Friday and Sunrise on Easter Sunday, God was dead and there was no sin. In the story I read, the villagers used this as an excuse to exact vengeance and commit adultery with no divine consequence.

When I first read this, I'm pretty sure my head exploded. I have often said that I was blessed with an overabundance of faith. I have been through some very challenging things. I have been deeply hurt and I have known real loss. I have doubted God's goodness and love. I have doubted my worthiness and salvation. But never in all my life have I doubted that God exists. Perhaps that is why the idea of God being dead, if only for 36 hours, shook me to my core.

I couldn't stop thinking about it. I was equal parts terrified and thrilled by the idea. When you're in your early twenties, the idea of no rules is an enticing one. But my connection with God is what keeps me grounded, so will I just float away into the aether if God is dead? My mind kept spinning and spinning. I wondered what I would do if I really believed there were no consequences. Then I wondered about how awful and empty I would feel without God.

I eventually put this magical thinking aside and got on with my life. God wasn't dead after all, so why keep worrying about nothing? But then, a few months later on the morning of Black Saturday, I suddenly remembered that God was dead. I got kind of twitchy and panicky; I kept looking over my shoulder like something was coming to get me and no one was there to help. Part of me wanted to try and shake off this feeling and rest easy in my faith, but another part of me was curious to explore.

I felt the excitement of there being no rules. It reminded me of the thrill I got when I was ten and one of my friends from Girl Scouts convinced me to say "shit." I still remember looking around her room before uttering it, like maybe the Holy Ghost was about to pop out from behind the dresser and condemn me. It was a taboo, it was not to be said; but I said it and nothing bad happened. What taboo things had I been curious about that now I could explore with no spiritual consequence?

But I couldn't think of anything worth doing. The truth was, I felt empty and scared. I didn't like the very notion of the absence of God. Without God, the world felt distant and menacing. In these moments I felt like I truly connected with the Hell of the Passion from the perspective of those left behind.

I thought about those Biblical days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. How dead and empty those who knew and loved Jesus must have felt. How scared and vulnerable, too. That was what struck me about God is Dead Saturday: how exposed I felt. Like the hedge of protection around me had been ripped out by the roots and I was laid bare.

This is why I haven't stopped thinking about God is Dead Saturday. It's too easy to go from Hosanna to Hallelujah and if I'm not intentional, I could almost forget the Hell in between. I understand the temptation to skip the cross; it's just so awful and sad. The very thought that God is dead is harrowing, but that is what happened two thousand years ago: God died on the cross.

So, harsh as it may sound, I'm sticking with God is Dead Saturday. If only to drive home the point that something devastating happened. Something jarring and awful. God died.

If you consider the terrifying possibility of God not only being absent from your life, but also from your world, it's almost debilitating. But when you pay attention to what the absence of God might look like, it helps to define the presence of God in your life. Taking time to dwell in God's death makes the resurrection so much more powerful.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~Romans 8:38-39

Laurel Hill cemetery at sunset.

1 comment:

  1. Really thoughtful post...I'd never really thought about God being dead, but it is an important piece of our celebration of Easter. Thanks for expressing this so well!