My experience suggests we rush past certain parts of the Easter story – we hustle past the barbarism and betrayals of Good Friday, and hurtle towards an empty tomb that proclaims that our hope lives once more.
We spend as little time as possible contemplating the day between … Bad Saturday.
The first Bad Saturday was where the disciples found out some harsh truths about themselves, their characters, and their cowardice. Bad Saturday is the day when those first disciples faced the fact they’d run away, they’d abandoned the one they’d pledged to follow, that their leader, their inspiration, their hope had been dashed against the brutality of the cross. Bad Saturday was where their dreams and belief in him had been shattered along with his tortured and battered body; belief dying in its infancy, even before they’d really learned its full extent.
For them, despite the fact that Jesus had talked repeatedly about his coming death, there was no understanding, no looking forward, no hope of his return … everything that they had believed in, gone, buried in a stone covered tomb. For us, two thousand years of Christian history and tradition tells us that Sunday comes, and that Christ rises from the tomb and that all the doubts, fears and disbelief of the day in between – that Bad Saturday – are swept away by the Resurrection and all it brings.
But still, that first Bad Saturday stands. It was real. I think that it still is.
Bad Saturday is the place where our fears and doubts about our faith, ourselves and our God collide with the realities of a world that isn’t some abstracted paradise. Bad Saturday is where our up-and-down lives grate against an in-and-out world. Bad Saturday is where hurts, disappointments, broken promises and shattered dreams aren’t hidden from sight; it’s where they are found in sharp detail, without camouflage and without artifice.
Bad Saturday is where a beaten, despised, spat at, mocked and murdered God lies, unable to answer, unable to help, unable to care … dead and disposed of, not even in a tomb of his own choosing.
Bad Saturday doesn’t just happen between Good Friday and Easter Sunday though; but you knew that already.
Perhaps, Bad Saturday lies at the heart of the Easter story … because Bad Saturday is where a lot of us find ourselves every now and then … it’s the place and time of questions, doubts, misunderstandings, frustration, anger and helplessness. It’s the everyday grind of not feeling as though any of it makes sense; it’s the boomerang prayers that seem to just fly back at you with no discernible answers; it’s the sick and the hurting people around you despite your desperate prayers; it’s the brokenness you see in yourself and in others; it’s the stubborn terrier-like refusal of that particular feeling/tendency/sin to just leave us alone!
Yet, somehow, could we start to see Bad Saturday in a different light.
You see, Bad Saturday is where a lot of dreams are buried – but they’re buried alongside with the cardboard cut-out Jesus we thought was there to grant our three (or however many) wishes!. Bad Saturday is where a lot of our selfish desires and ambitions lie tattered – along with the Santa Claus costume that we’d dressed up Jesus in so he could give us more and more things to make us feel/look good. Bad Saturday is where we find ourselves face-to-face with the fact that our beliefs – in all their varying degrees of orthodoxy – do not define God; that He is free to not live down to our expectations.
You see, when I’ve faced times where my faith has been somewhat ‘less than robust’ (or rather when I’ve maintained a faith that chiefly consisted of haranguing God and accusing Him of indifference at best and sadism at worst), they’ve been my Bad Saturday. It’s the place where I’ve found that my assumptions about what my faith is really about butt up against the person I really am … and where I am truly revealed in my less than edifying glory. It’s also the place where my picture of God is challenged again and again – my wish-granting, blank-cheque-writing, miracle-on-demand God is placed in harsh contrast to the real thing on Bad Saturday.
Bad Saturday is where god can die and where God will not be diminished in that death.
Peter Rollins writes a parable (in the fabulous The Orthodox Heretic and other impossible tales) in which he talks of a group of disciples who fled Jerusalem before the Resurrection occurred; this group continued to follow the teachings and example of Christ as much as they could because they believed that it was the right way. A hundred years later, when missionaries from Jerusalem bring news of the Resurrection and Ascension to that community, the leader is later found crying – not tears of joy, but of loss. The leader worries that those who followed Jesus because they recognised that his was the right way, might now be more inclined to follow because of the promise of a resurrection, a place in heaven, being on the ‘winning team’ – in short that they would follow for selfish motives, rather than because they believed that Jesus’ example and life where sufficient enough to inspire their devotion.
I think that maybe Bad Saturday is the place where these pre-resurrection disciples might have lived – in the place where the Resurrection is affirmed by a life lived following in the footsteps of the one we’re supposed to believe in, following his teachings and example rather than one paying lip service to faith, in order to trade in our ‘get in to heaven free’ card at the end of our days.
I think that we may need to be more aware when we’re in one of those Bad Saturdays, consciously lingering there for a while perhaps – not in a masochistic, hair-shirt, dust and ashes way, but rather in a way that acknowledges the doubt, that does not shrink from dejection, that doesn’t seek easy clichés in response to heartfelt questions, that says, “I hurt … but I will still trust.”
And there, in that Bad Saturday, we may find the first inkling of real resurrection life. Not a life focussed on ‘personal salvation’ and ‘eternal reward’ but one that is more about being a life, a place, “called to be a site where Resurrection takes place” in the here and now, in the midst of the confusion and wounds, in the shadow filled light of the doubt and the struggles. Perhaps, Bad Saturday is a place where we might see the first inklings of a faith that no longer needs some version of a cherub-filled, pearly-gated heavenly reward as a reason to follow. Perhaps Bad Saturday is where we start finding a faith that endures through every day …
Perhaps, Bad Saturday isn’t so bad …