The Dark of Thursday


I trudged upstairs after putting my children to bed to write because I know what this night means and somehow I needed to address it.  This morning on the way to work I cried, not for Jesus but for my own weaknesses and insecurities, because at times I feel so fallible and small.

I had such a long day in heels, crafting language that passed muster under federal regulations and dictating to my paralegal the content of an agenda for a meeting in an hour. I ran around like a hamster on a wheel preparing and meeting and writing and drafting. I nibbled on salad and tapped messages into my bright shiny phone and answered emails as fast as they fired.

I sighed as my children refused to eat the dinner I set before them. And tonight when my daughter failed to listen when I told her to get out of the tub I yelled, my sharp knife-words cut as I scolded her to be respectful and pay attention.  Her heart was hurt and she sulked away.  But it felt good to yell, to demand respect. To show that I have some authority in this home.

I am also so painfully aware of how I started many of the previous sentences with I.  Because that’s the world we live in, self-focused and ego-driven.

Yet it’s the night before the dawn. When Jesus begged his closest friends to stay awake while he prayed a prayer so earnest blood likely drained from his tired eyes. The type of tired that is beyond exhausted, where you can barely move and yet you can’t stop praying because life is ripped out from underneath you and it’s all so damn hard. The thought of a slow agonizing death is simply too much for one to bear.

And yet these friends of Jesus, they walked so far. It was dark and it was late and it was Passover. The glasses of wine made them all tired. “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” he said to Peter as he sat sleeping – probably slumped over – because what-are-ya-gonna-do with all that wine. I can see it, Jesus shaking his head, like “I try to teach you fellas and every time I turn around you’re all missing it.” I’m sure my pastor feels that way most of the time with his flock, just a bunch of rich middle-class slackers.

“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation,” Jesus said to Peter. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said this to the man who swore to never leave, or abandon, or betray.

But he did, three times before the dawn.

I mean to be kind and patient. I really honestly do. I want to get down on the level of my children’s eyes and talk peacefully about respect and consequences. I have chore charts that go unattended and morning routines that are half-followed. But what the hell with this guy who thinks he owns the road in rush hour and why is the dog barking again when I already fed him and DON’T THE KIDS SEE HOW HARD I’M WORKING AND IT IS ALL FOR THEM.

The spirit, it’s all charged up. On Sundays I hold palm branches and sing hymns and fist-bump online about pretty things. On facebook I put my best family pictures forward. On Easter I shall wear blue and sing Messiah. But oh, the flesh. It is ripped and torn by Thursday, when things grow dark and our pasts tickle our hearts and we are filled with passive aggressive rage. So we yell and sulk and it feels pretty damn good. For now we’ll just close our eyes for a bit and rest.

Tonight after I thought the kids were asleep, I heard my daughter’s voice. Small and beautiful, it called my name like a song as she lay there under her purple coverlet. The one with flowers and little lacy stripes. She couldn’t sleep, and I curled up next to her and encircled my legs in hers. I put my face next to her damp hair that I had braided into two delicate braids. And I cried, my tears so close to the body that came from me, out of me, a part of me. I said I was so sorry that I yelled, that I am so far from perfect. Sometimes we don’t act the way we tell others to act. And I asked her forgiveness. “No one is perfect,” she said in that elegant little eight-year-old way.

I am filled with such sorrow, Jesus, for falling asleep. How can you ever possibly forgive me when I’m so selfish and unworthy? For thinking you can wait until tomorrow, because of the wine and the meal and the business of life that sort-of interferes?

So I trudge upstairs, even though it’s been a long day and I yelled at my daughter in the bathtub and my childrens’ plates of ham and potatoes are half-eaten on the table. But I needed to document this succession of days filled with grief when the veil was torn. When heaven wept. When our Lord was tortured, and bled, and cried out to a father who surely hadn’t forsaken him.

Easter is coming. I know this because I’ve read the book jacket. Because my daughter has already forgiven me for the yelling. Because if my love for her is a tiny indication of the love our Father feels, I am protected beyond measure.   But this is a hard night.  It is a dark Thursday. A night of our own failures. A night when we betray even the one who loves us, because it’s human nature.  Because no one is perfect.  Because we need Christ more than we need the virtues of this world.

Stay awake, friends. As hard as you can, pry your eyes open wide. The Easter son will soon rise. 


(three w’s)

Rose-colored dreams

Sometimes I dream about silly things, meaningless combinations of people and daily routines and journeys to nowhere.  It’s like my brain can’t handle all the data and throws it together in perverted ways, going shopping for shoes while eating broccoli and meeting my husband for drinks without wearing pants.

Occasionally there is a peace that washes over my soul like blue waves.  I wake up softly, like on the shores of Maine, and flip over on the pillow with a sigh.  I thank God for coffee and warmth and softness, and it’s these moments I reach for him, lying beside me, to feel his touch.  These dreams are rich in color.  Green soothes my tattered nerves and Red rises up live lava from the underbelly of some great unknown.  Yellow bursts from clouds and Dark Violet erupts from the blackest of darkness.   Color is opera and it flows through my subconscious like a rich aria, and all I can do is be present in it, wallowing inside, basking in the glory.

And then the nightmares come.  Images that stain and bleed and cut so deeply I wake up gasping for breath.  I can’t shed the pictures and I end up churning and weeping and praying for my brain to un-pixilate the data.  It’s after these restless nights I wake alone in an empty bed with a dusty heart.  I want to shake these dreams free, angry at myself for conjuring up unwelcome images.  And yet they are all part of me, the waking and the sleeping and the living and the dead.  The sweet and the wholesome and the angry burning fire that consumes.

They all have their place, really.  The silly and the rich and the dark are all woven together to show what our minds are thinking while our bodies rest.  I had a dream once that a bomb landed in our home but didn’t detonate, and I went to the attic and clung to what I loved the most.  The very next day my life totally changed.  The bomb went off.  Pieces scattered.  I saw it coming.

I often lay in bed at night, wanting to find truth.  I pray and I read and mull over the day.  But truth is never evident in the twilight.  It’s only revealed after my subconscious repeats the day’s pattern a few thousand times.  When my body stops moving long enough to let God in.  And in the morning, things are clearer.  Not always more beautiful, mind you, but clearer.  Like a direction has been forged.

I don’t like the terror: I want to cling to the aria.  And yet we don’t get to choose these things.  We dream what we need to see in order to process life around us, and this is one thing we can’t control.  It’s a lesson to pay more attention to what your internal soul is trying to say.  To allow God a venue.  To hear the hard stuff.  Because it’s through the hard stuff that you grow, and change, and become stronger.

Dreams are not always rose-colored glasses.  Sometimes the rose turns dead and glasses break and we wake up hurting.  And yet there is hope that someday in the future we’ll wake up in Maine again.  That love will be there to hold onto.  That in time, the colors will return in waves, and we’ll smile in the knowledge that our souls are happy.  That we listened to truth.  And we’ll all dream about going to dinner without any pants while eating asparagus ice cream.

Oh my dear soul.  Let the silly come.