Sunday was the highest of High Holy Days for Christians — Easter! But, even if you are one of those folks who swear you don’t have a religious bone in your body … well, the story can still compel and inspire.
“While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.” (John 20:1)
I admire Mary Magdalene, as I admire anyone who is willing to move forward in the dark. When there is no light. No fire. No sunrise. The future impossible to predict, anticipate or even imagine. Even the light of hope utterly extinguished. The only thing left to remind us we are alive is emptiness and suffering.
This is Mary’s reality. It is still dark.
It is the wee hours of Sunday. The sun yet arisen. Mary’s heart is broken, devastated. Jesus is dead — unjustly and cruelly tortured and murdered — and with him has died every hope she had placed in the man and the message. For, if the God about which Jesus spoke is real, then how could God allow such meaningless suffering at the hands of hate and fear?
Apparently the nihilists are right: Life is a bitch, and then you die.
Anomie: “The general mood of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence.”
It is in this darkness that Christianity and Buddhism agree, the latter beginning with The Four Noble Truths, the first of which I can barely say with a straight face: “Life is suffering.”
Oh? Do you think?
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck (1936-2005) says it this way:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Most do not see this truth. Instead they moan more or less incessantly as if life should be easy. They voice their belief that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and has somehow been especially visited upon them.”
I remember the wife whose husband was in a hospice bed. She pulled me into the chapel and confronted me with this question: “Is there any hope?” I said, “It depends on what you mean by hope.”
Is there any hope that we can be immortal (death-proof)? No, there is no hope.
Is there any hope that we can love anything or anyone and not suffer? No, there is no hope.
But, is there hope that we can live and die, endure in the celebrations and sufferings of love and find peace, joy, meaning and purpose. Yes! Hope abounds!
I remember my eldest son surrounded by darkness, pointing to a huge bandage over his eye following his sixth eye surgery and saying, “Am I broken?”
I told him “no.” He was merely unlucky enough to draw the Marfan’s syndrome card from the biologically capricious and most imperfect deck of life. He neither asked for nor deserved a genetic flaw, any more than the passengers on Germanwings Flight 9525 deserved a dangerously psychotic pilot.
I told him all I knew to be true — that some of the most beautiful, most profound, most powerful, meaningful and sublime gifts are resurrected from suffering. There lies priceless treasure out there in the darkness.
“The people in darkness have seen a great Light.” (Isaiah 9:2)
But you have to keep moving forward. While it is still dark.
When a loved one dies … when your own death has moved from intellectualized data point to an actual doctor’s diagnosis … when dreams die … when your marriage dies … when your child is lost in self-destructive living … or you are likewise lost … when your enemies rule the day in injustice … when hope dies …
… we still have choices. We can give up. Or we can move forward. While it is still dark.
If you don’t embrace resurrection as a religious tenet, then consider it as a motif. For resurrection has to do with the miracle of life arising from death. Hope is not a feeling; hope is a discipline. We move forward. We keep reaching our hands into the dry dust of life, looking for life and meaning.
We never give up.
Endurance is worship.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Mondays. Contact him at 227-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.