A Lenten Devotional for Good Friday

I was asked to write a Lenten devotional for Good Friday – my reaction?  Seriously?  Can’t you just give me a random day in the middle?  I’m not equipped to write a devotional for Good Friday!  I’m so young and there are far wiser people in my church who have so much to teach.  My pastor assured me that I was fit for the job.  So here I am – with the devotional I wrote for the members of my church and I’m sharing it with you.  God Bless you on this sacred Good Friday in Lent.

John 19:17-37

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple,“Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his
head and released his spirit. 31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. 34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35(This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe.) 36 These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

It was August 6, 2012.  My mom called me at work to let me know that they weren’t going to treat my grandpa anymore.  They were just going to keep him comfortable.  It was an ending that I knew would eventually come but I had no idea so soon.

I left work immediately.  I walked into his hospital room and there he was – lying peacefully with his eyes closed.  I hugged my family.  We gathered around his bed to say a prayer.  I prayed with all of my heart and all of my soul that this wasn’t really happening.  Please God, save my grandpa.  Don’t let this be happening right now.  If only he would open his eyes.  Tears screamed down my face and my heart raced with the desperation of my prayer.

We spent time telling funny stories about Grandpa.  How he loved to wear his green and gold zumba pants with his suede slippers.  The sound of his laugh.  The way he insisted on having his hair cut – “if you can’t wash it with a wash rag, it’s too long.”  There were stories of his wisdom and strength, and how he beautifully loved my grandma and all of his children and step-children.

I remember what the room looked like and where the couch and hospital bed were positioned.  I vividly remember the ‘comfort cart’ parked in the corner of the room – stocked with snacks and soda.  I remember the sounds of the room too – the laughs, tears and then this rattling.  It was ugly and monster-like.  Grandpa’s breathing was slowing down and with it came a sort of moan and rattle.  The sound was unnerving.  Freighting really.  I had never heard something like this before.  (I didn’t know that this was a normal part of dying.)

The change in Grandpa’s health weighed down the room.  Our chests were tight with grief.  At some unknown time, the sound started to blend in with the other sounds of the room.  It was rhythmic and became predicable.  It was almost comforting and soothing.  There was a tipping point when the absence of the rattling became more uncomfortable or frightening than the actual sound.  The rattling meant that Grandpa was still alive.

From something that was so ugly came something that I wasn’t sure how to live without.  In the face of loss or pain, we cling to anything familiar – grabbing at rocks as we tumble head over heels down the hill of loss.  What happens when Grandpa takes his last breath and the rattling stops?  Does that mean I go home?  Then what?  I’m not in control of what happens next.

At some point, the frightening and ugly parts of life become comfortable and familiar.  The weight of the cross we each carry absorbs itself into each step we take.  Our flaws blend into who we are – they begin to define us.  I am an alcoholic.  I am divorced.  I am homeless or jobless.  I am a failure.  When we look in the mirror, all we see is our cross, our brokenness.  No matter how broken, it’s the part of us that we know intimately.

What happens when I no longer have to carry the cross on my own?  What would I see in the mirror if I no longer had a cross on my back to carry?

We know that Easter is coming.  We can be confident that every Good Friday will be followed by Easter.  We might not know what Easter is … or what it will unfold, but we can be confident that it’s in the near future.  No death or darkness is ever without an Easter.  Our cross will be lifted.  It is no longer our own to carry.

It’s ok to find comfort in the rattling of your life.  It’s ok to take time to rest in the known misery.  But don’t get stuck there.  Let go of the known sadness and open yourself up to accept a ‘new normal.’  Easter is coming.  When you catch a glimpse of it – don’t lose focus.  The healing is just beginning.

Love, Mel




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