no darker day
all night i tossed and turned, wondered if i would write how lonely it is. how achingly hard. to be the sole believer in a house i call home.
oh, there are others who believe other things. just no one else who believes what i do.
no one else who spills tears at the thought of the story, deep thought. deeper story, the one of today, the one of good friday, no darker a day.
no one else who came with me to church last night, who stripped off their shoes, stood in line, knelt down to wash the feet of another. no one else who knows what it felt like, how it wrung me right out, the man i don’t know, his deeply brown hands, tenderly, thoroughly, washing my feet.
it is, was, a wholly powerful moment. metaphor, yes. but literal, too. sensual, really. warm water was poured, my bare bumpy feet there in a bowl, a white porcelain bowl. no ceremonial sprinkle and wipe. not this. no.
i could barely look up. couldn’t breathe. all around me, humility loomed. filled the church, right up to the rafters. this church where i went–unlike the one of palm sunday–is a church that i love. it is filled with people of colors, filled with bodies so broken, but spirits that look to be whole.
beaming and grinning and shaking a shaker, the young handsome man strapped to a wheelchair. the boy with the face that is pretty much mangled. the one who was blind. the old lady who only could shuffle, and barely at that. all of them, there. so very there.
for three hours, i think, i was bathed in all of the ritual. the latin, the spanish. the incense, the candles. the bread and the wine. oh, and the song. cello and tambourine. children with bells. and the pouring of water on bare naked skin.
even i, a soul who’s felt not very holy of late, i was pulled right back to the flame deep inside. long long ago, a story was put there. a story i simply believed. over the years, it got jostled around. couldn’t be. yes it could. hmm, i wonder. oh, geez, i don’t know. i don’t even know anymore.
it’s the sad sorry fallout from hours and hours of listening, and hearing the people you love, people whose thinking you trust on all sorts of matters, come down, on this one, on the far side of the fence.
it’s the part of the jewish-catholic equation that isn’t much aired. and sometimes i think that it should be. it might untangle a knot.
there’s the words of the rabbi: you can’t believe it both ways. and the words of the priest: you love the same God. and then there’s me, sometimes lost in the middle.
it’s not likely to happen, perhaps, if you didn’t start out deeply believing. or caring too much. but on both of those scores, i raised my hand.
and that’s where the rub comes: after 20 long years, two-fifths of my life, of listening to scholars who find it all rather unlikely, but even moreso, watching the pain on the face of the man who i love on that long ago sunday of palms, or hearing the words of my firstborn when he says he finds it mostly improbable, my whole core has been shaken and rattled and, sometimes i fear, broken to bits.
i hold onto shards. pray for the blue glowing flame not to go out.
but then, on a night like last night, i go in a church, i take off my shoes and it all floods right back. the whole power and glory of a church that holds up this day, and the ones just before and right after. says, look at this. look how human and horrid and broken we all can be. look how this one single soul was betrayed, was mocked, was beaten, was made to carry a cross. and he died without raising his voice. except to cry out: “Father forgive them. they know not what they do.”
it’s a moment, i swear, to carry me far. it’s a moment i thank holy God for. each year, i come back. and many hours between.
but the hollow deep hole in my chest, when i feel all alone, and not very certain, it makes for some hours of unbearable darkness.
and how uncanny it is that this day, no darker a day on the calendar, somehow is lit from behind. like that sun through the clouds. or a star breaking through in the murk of the night.
it might be, just might be, a soul, after all, that refuses to succumb to the doubt.
perhaps, in the end, that’s what my easter miracle is. the maybe that turns to a yes. the yes that won’t fall to eclipse. do you struggle, when it comes to believing? what brings you home, time and again? is it the power of story, or the break in the clouds? i send you blessings, as we all wait out the darkness, counting on light to come in the dawn.