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THE AUTHENTIC IN-BETWEEN



They had known there might be trouble.   And now they were intimidated.

 

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t warned them.  And it wasn’t as if they hadn’t tried to talk him out of it.

 

But now what?

 

Lock the doors.  Wait for the other shoe (only it was really a hammer) to drop.    Stay together.  Stay quiet. 

 

They were the disciples of Jesus, it was Saturday, and they were indeed intimidated.   Probably not much sleep the night before.   No idea what tomorrow, Sunday, would bring.   One of them, perhaps three at a time, might be next for all they knew.   Crucifixion usually was plural, not singular, in Rome.

 

They were in-between.

 

So you may know their story, and this week more than most is when you’ll try your best to re-live it with them.  Which shouldn’t be so hard. 

 

Why?

 

Because, if we’re all being honest, their story has been or maybe now is our own story.  

 

Being honest and authentic, facing our own fears and worries and apprehensions about life, we all can relate to the question of “now what?” and the experience of “in-between.”    We know what it’s like to lose, and we know what it’s like to linger.   And, if we’re being real, we know what it’s like to stare at a dark ceiling, to roll over and pound the pillow, to try again only to realize again that Friday happened.  It wasn’t just a bad dream after all.  Our loved one really IS gone.  Death has taken someone we cared so much about, leaving our hopes and dreams unfinished.   Leaving our hearts broken and feeling more than a bit empty.

 

Being honest and authentic, facing our own fears and worries and apprehensions about life, we know what the disciples may have also felt in their own human minds and bodies that day.   That Saturday.  Making sure their door was locked.   Not yet able to unsee Friday’s pain and trauma.  Or unhear.  Or unsmell.   There would be no forgetting.   Not today.  Maybe never.  

 

If those original disciples of Jesus had only known about Easter.   Only known that tomorrow, Sunday, their fantasy of seeing him again would become their reality.  Only known that he knew, that he would come, that they would again feel the safety and security of his presence inside their locked room.  

 

If only.

 

I, for one, would like to think that if only the disciples had faith that Sunday would bring “good news of the resurrection,” then Saturday would have been, well, just another Saturday.  But I'm not so sure it would have made a lot of difference. At least not right away.

 

You see, we who do believe in Easter and do celebrate resurrection Sundays still have our own Fridays to face.  And Saturdays in-between.  And our own fears and worries and apprehensions about life to face.  Our memories of Easter don’t cause us to forgot those other days.   They don’t even cause us to keep our doors unlocked.  

 

Just being real.    

 

Easter Sundays are not apt to just erase our fears, or take away our memories, or extinguish our doubts.   No Sunday on any year’s calendar has the raw power to wipe away the Saturday of worry or wonder.  No Sunday morning can cancel out our Saturday mourning.    Grief has a way of staying around, and even getting us prepared for more, just in case.  

 

How easily, and wrongly I contend, we Christians turn Easter into some magical disappearance of fear and doubt and despair.   We think in terms of presto-chango.   But our bodies know better.   No matter what our minds like to say and sing.  

 

When taking off my preacher hat and putting on my counselor hat, my message reaches for a different set of points.  

 

1.         Our brains will always have a limbic system surrounding & protecting its amygdala.   Which develops in the womb and stretches  nearly to the tomb.   It’s the first responder to everything we experience in this world, has no capacity for reason, and has no ability to differentiate between different and dangerous, change and catastrophe, foreign and fatal.  Instead it has the ability to imagine the worst case scenario.   Our amygdala gives orders to produce our stress hormones for fight / flight in case our survival depends on it.    

2.        Every day in that part of our brains is a Saturday.   Drawing from memories of Friday.   So unless we wish for our own brain death, we need to settle in and accept that this neurological function is by design and that it is what turns on the body’s necessary alarm system, whether true or false; crying fire in our own crowded theater even when it was just someone smoking in the bathroom.   Then accept that this part of our brains has no power to turn off that same alarm.

3.         Easter is that day in which our brain’s pre-frontal cortex comes out and resets the alarm.  Shuts it off for the time being, but doesn’t destroy it.   Proclaims a false alarm, but leaves it in tact to continue its purpose of being there again next Friday.   Next Saturday.  Re-minds us. Re-stores us.  Re-stories us.   Re-assures us that while fear will always get the first word in with every argument inside our normal & natural human brains, love will always get the last word in.   And it will be a good word. It will be good news / Gospel.

 

So what difference does Easter then make anyhow?  

 

Why bother celebrating if the alarm is turned off but still left connected?    What’s the big deal about quieting one false alarm if another could rather easily go off next week?  Next Saturday?

 

Or why celebrate a happy ending if there’s still more “in-betweens” to come?   And, for that matter, why celebrate the Springtime if there’s going to be another Winter still to come?  

 

My answers would be this.   Love is worth celebrating even when it is not yet perfect enough to cast out fear.   Faith in love is worth holding onto even if we can’t yet master our doubt in fear.  

 

Those of you who read my book, “Love’s Resurrection: its power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” may understand about my own personal struggle.   You may get just how it’s taken me 70 years of faith deconstruction and spiritual formation to re-story my fear into my love.   My fear story isn’t dead because I’m not yet brain-dead.    I can still imagine a worst case scenario with the best of them, and my trigger finger can still pull that alarm…..whether it’s true or (as usual) false.   What has happened to me is that my love story has come back to life.   My Saturday doubt in love and faith in fear has given way to my Easter faith in love and doubt in fear.   THAT is the difference Easter can make anyhow!

 

I have to wonder if it isn’t true for others, as well as myself, that having a faith in love to hold onto is what makes my faith in fear easier to finally let go of.   Only the sequence there is actually backward.  It’s the letting go of fear that frees us up to go from doubt in love to faith in love.   It’s the going through Friday’s loss and Saturday’s in-between that enables us to grasp Easter’s love story.

 

In my book, I shared about the old bi-plane wing walker at 20th century air shows who testified how with the vertical bars between the plane’s horizontal wings being more than two arm lengths away, the secret of wing walking was to let go of one while taking a step forward to grab the other.  The secret is knowing how to do the in-between.

 

Maybe for you, too, Saturday’s faith in fear is where you now stand.  Maybe it’s strangely like your own safe place, something to hold onto …… for dear life.   A dead-bolt on your own front door.  Maybe you’re only part-way across that wing we call life in this 21st century.   Maybe you’re trying to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  If so, welcome aboard this faith journey.  

 

We all have a right to our fears.  But we also have a right to God’s love.   And, after awhile, the more we get of that love the easier it becomes to stop doubting in that love and, instead, start doubting in our fears.   Making those alarms a bit softer in the hope they will soon be turned off.  

 

Making our Saturdays a little bit easier as we go.  Maybe less overwhelming.

 

And our in-betweens less intimidating.

 

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