Let's Stay Together
As I write this, it’s Easter morning and the sun is filtering in through my window. This year, a friend of mine mentioned that she was enjoying not forcing any feelings of Easter, and I know how she feels. I spent most of Holy Week on a spontaneous vacation, and everything felt a little muted, like I was hearing about it from far away.
The past several weeks have been filled with illness and sorrow (and sorrow doesn’t help to speed illness along). I said goodbye to the foundation of relationship I was building, and I succumbed to the miserable sickness that has been spreading through my community. I’m always a bit of a hypochondriac when I’m sick. At the hardest points, I question whether I will ever recover.
I was afraid in the face of these circumstances. I was afraid of my own grief, and weakness. I know how quickly depression can find me, and I didn’t want to go.
Looking back, I can see the way depression brushed past me in the dark, curling her fingers in my hair.
But this morning, I am enjoying the sensations of my own bed, after an absence. I’m sipping tea that reminds me of my brother. I’m planning the meals I’d like to make this week in my head, even as I type this. I am not ruined. Everything is not lost.
My healing was not spectacular. There was no weather to mark the change, no angels to herald it. It is my tendency to focus on these sexy parts of the Easter story. But today I’m drawn to the story of Mary, frustrated and crying near the tomb where she’d seen Jesus laid. There was no lightning, no loud noises, no rocks breaking in two. There was simply a woman worn out with sorrow, fear, and shock trying to do what she could in the face of tragedy. Jesus speaks her name, only her name, and she knows that everything has changed.
Last week, Over the Rhine celebrated the 10th anniversary of Drunkard’s Prayer, the album that first introduced me to their music. It’s an album they wrote as they chose to stay married. They call it their “let’s-stay-together album.” I knew this detail, somewhere in the back of my mind, but it seems a little more poignant this week. I’ve always found these songs beautiful, not because they are neat, but because they hint at hardship.
As I’ve walked through the half-decade since I first heard those songs, I’ve returned to them not only because of the beautiful harmonies, but because they remind me that hope is a valid response to doubt.
There is a verse in Matthew that has always made me breathe a little easier, especially in recent years, when anxiety and questions have swept me up, and I haven’t felt the way I’ve wanted to feel, at Easter and otherwise. It’s at the very end of the book, after the resurrection, as the disciples meet Jesus on a pre-arranged mountain. It says: “When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.” (Matt 28:17). I know the feeling.
I love that this verse is here because it makes me feel that I have nothing to hide. So often, like Mary, I’m trying to be practical, bringing spices to dignify death, no thought of resurrection. So often, like Thomas, I’m skeptical, or perhaps I’m simply heartbroken, aching with loss.
When I get lost in my own mind, my worries, my questions for God, I often return to John 6. These words take place after many disciples have turned away from following Him. “So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:67-69) I echo these words. Sometimes I whisper: “let’s stay together.”