i've been having dreams the past several nights in which i'm over my head in water.
Ordinarily this is a great thing, because i love water. I even like to think that it took so long for me to be born because I didn't want to come out of the water!
These dreams have been different than having a beautiful swim in a placid lake, or peaceful pool. The waters of my dreams have been raging, surging, wild and uncontrolled. I have either fallen into them and been swept away with the flow, going under and dragging myself up, sputtering and gasping. . or i have been dragged over the edge of a thundering cataract and plunged screaming, thousands of feet down the roaring sheet of water.
I seem to have these thematic dreams -- climbing impossible heights, frightened to death of falling, or i've been hopelessly lost on a journey and unable to get my bearings. . now with being submerged and surrendered to a journey not of my choosing, having to go where the waves take me. I think there's a leather couch in a nearby office with my name on it!!!
So, its Easter Sunday morning - very early. . i should be in bed asleep! My thoughts are churning as much as the water in my dreams, keeping me awake. I've been trying to pray but i'm too antsy. . . i had to write this. Maybe this is a way to pray? think things through, sort stuff out.
Aside from the whole spring renewal, baby chicks, easter bunny, eggs both real and candy, lamb with mint sauce, buns with crosses, ham dinner, new clothes, going to church stuff, this year I'm really trying to ask myself "What is all this stuff that we do?"
When I was a kid it was all about the excitement of the Easter Bunny hiding all those sugary goodies. The anticipation of the hunt, the pastel-coloured, woven treat-holding baskets, the gorging on chocolate, marshmallow and jelly beans! Kid heaven!!! It was also the new Easter dress, hat, white gloves, white patent leather shoes to wear to church, where I heard words like sin, Jesus, cross, mercy, grave, risen, Redeemer, forgiveness, salvation, everlasting life. I was familiar with these words, i knew the sound of them, but I'm afraid that they took a back seat to Laura Secord cream eggs and my newest spring outfit. The purple words were all way over my head.
Fast forward through the decades. . i played Easter Bunny to my own kids, dyed eggs with food colouring, bought those baskets, the girlie outfits, hid the candy eggs, decorated the house with spring flowers, toasted hot cross buns for breakfast, dressed the girls and went to church.
Now I've lived enough to know more than the sound of those words, but I've become familiar with how they feel to me. My feelings however go up and down like the thermometer during the transition between seasons. But the purple words don't take a back seat to the former things, or do they? The money I've spent this week on food for 'the feast', the money I plunked down at the hand-made chocolate shop, the fresh cut flowers, the potted lily, the little gifts for the grandkids, the menu planning. I wonder, have I gotten it yet? I'm middle aged for crying in the sink! but I sometimes I don't really think its sunk in?
I went to a nearby church on "Good Friday". . . a day that can hardly be called 'good', but maybe "Good Came From That Friday"? I had taken Thursday off in order to run around and get 'stuff' for the big event -- so it was quite a gearing down the next morning when I entered a darkened, hushed room with all its candle-lit 'stations'. I sat in quietness with other strangers as i moved from one display to the next. I began by staring at 30 pieces of silver - coins spilled out on a cloth-lined table. I thought of betrayal . I thought of my own fickleness. Next I touched some rough, splintered pieces of wood and winced as i thought of how it felt to lie against that wood. I held cold metal spikes in my hand and hefted a mallet. I thought of how much it hurt if a tiny needle entered my skin, couldn't imagine this spike. I ate a piece of bread and took a sip of grape juice - thought of his body, broken for us and his blood shed. I took some strips of muslin fabric in my hands and rubbed them together - grave clothes - i smelled the myrrh, put some in the palm of my hand. Pictured 75 pounds of this used to embalm his body. . this was the amount used for a royal burial in those days -- how ironic after his criminal's death.
When I sat at each station and thought about all these parts of his whole death process, I began to feel the weight of the purple words becoming a reality and felt them overshadow my trip to the chocolate shop and felt them dwarf the grocery run and eclipse the balloons and the stuffed toy rabbits -- as i thought of such merciful, selfless bravery and hard core compassion -- i felt once more over my head. I came to a torn curtain, hanging between flood-lit pillars and i tried to imagine the sound of the ripping of that heavy temple curtain that separated the 'holy of holies' from the common area -- i thought of what this meant. . no more separation between God and us. Last, I came to a small cross, draped in scarlet cloth, from which hung a crown of thorns --at the base of which lay a crossbeam, a bucket of small nails, black pieces of paper, pencils and a hammer. This was my cross. I was invited to write down something I felt that I was willing to surrender, then lay it on the wood and pound it in. I sat there for a while. What could i possibly write on that black piece of paper? And if i DID write down something, would i really be honest about it? I thought of wanting to be real and feel something more about Easter than all that stuff we've all made it into. I thought of those purple words that have always been in my head, but did they really make the journey down to my heart yet? Sometimes i think they have, but then other times I worry that I don't have the slightest clue how heavily beautiful they are and I don't understand them. I sat some more. At last I got up and took a pencil in hand, knelt by the bucket of nails, wrote "myself" on the paper and nailed it to the 'cross' in 3 strikes of the hammer. Its not that I thought of me hanging on a cross, but rather of me being willing to symbolically promise my everything to the one would did not hesitate to literally give his everything for me. Once more I felt over my head - but isn't that really what i wanted? Real? not candy? not flowers or baked goods? not buying things? not stuffed toys? not even church attendance or Bible verses? but me flooded over by the reality of his depth of mercy?
I used to belong to a beautiful choir. We sang this song, or rather 'they' sang it, because I don't think I ever sang a note . It always made me cry. . .the haunting tune ebbing and flowing like ocean swells, the words cut me down. I cried for my badness and for his goodness that swallowed it up:
Depth of mercy can there be? Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear? me the chief of sinners spare?
I have long withstood His grace, long provoked Him to his face,
Would not harken to his calls, grieved him by a thousand falls.
Depth of mercy can there be? Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forebear? Me the chief of sinners spare?
Whence to me this waste of love? Ask my advocate above.
See the cause in Jesus' face, now before the throne of grace.
There for me a Saviour stands, show His wounds and spreads His hands
God is love, I know, I feel. . . Jesus lives and loves me still.