Grieving and Rejoicing
By Margaret Benefiel
On Good Friday, no one anticipated Easter. The disciples, in shock and grief, hid away in fear. Neither the disciples nor Jesus’s enemies expected resurrection.
And then the resurrection came. Unbelievable. How could this be? Still in shock and grief, the disciples weren’t ready. Even after Jesus appeared to the disciples, they kept hiding in fear.
In the weeks following Easter, Christians observe “Eastertide,” a time of living into the resurrection. So far, in the biblical stories read in churches the last couple of Sundays, the disciples aren’t doing too well at manifesting resurrection reality. In one story, we find them locked away in a room out of fear. In another, they are walking along the road and don’t even recognize the resurrected Jesus when he starts walking and talking with them.
What keeps the disciples afraid? What makes them blind? Why do they keep slipping back into a mentality of fear and disbelief even after Jesus appeared to them?
Perhaps they felt blindsided. Already reeling from the crucifixion, still taking that in, they weren’t ready for the resurrection. Dreams shattered, hopes dashed with the crucifixion, they felt betrayed. They had believed Jesus was the Messiah, about to deliver them from the cruelty of the Roman occupation. And then they witnessed the crucifixion.
Now this. Could they trust the resurrection? Their hurting hearts and confused minds struggled to make sense of it all. How could this be? Was Jesus a ghost? Perhaps they inwardly questioned: “Are you kidding me?” “Are you toying with us, Jesus?” “I won’t be tricked again.” “Fool me once, shame on you. . .”
Perhaps they tried to shut out the pain by retreating into reason. They tried to make logical sense of all that had transpired. And of course they couldn’t. The events defied rational explanation.
In this season of Eastertide as I observe the disciples, I’ve been reflecting on death and resurrection at Shalem, the organization I serve as executive director. We have been living with grief as we feel the impact of the cancellation of two pilgrimages and a major program, losing over 10% of our annual income. Furthermore, we feel the loss of being together in person as a staff, the loss of hugs and walks and good food together, the loss of staying at retreat centers in beautiful natural settings.
At the same time, we see resurrection and new life. We both grieve and welcome new life at the same time. When the leadership team for our Group Spiritual Direction program creatively re-envisioned the program, interest quadrupled. Our Young Adult Life and Leadership program also grew when the new format was announced. Over 60 have registered so far for our online clergy retreat. As other program leadership teams wrestle with loss while also listening for the new life that is emerging, they also experience grief and resurrection together. A wave of sadness washes over us when something reminds us of the in-person experience we won’t have this year. Then a wave of joy comes when creative juices flow and we see the potential for new life and energy in our re-envisioned program. Then the waves get all mixed up together, many emotions roiling around inside of us all at once.
Like the disciples, we are living in a time of experiencing death and resurrection together. Like the disciples we feel grief and hope, sadness and joy, anger and healing, sometimes in waves, sometimes all at the same time. Let us be gentle with ourselves and with one another as we go through the grieving process while also learning to live in resurrection.
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