Truth be told, I would rather conduct a memorial service than a wedding (but for those of you whose weddings I officiated, you were the exception!) I also find planning the Good Friday service much more interesting, fun, and worthwhile than planning the Easter service.
This is not new information to me. I have been ruminating on it for a while, as this year’s Good Friday service flowed out of me so easily and elegantly, while getting Easter off the ground felt like wading through lime jello dotted with shredded carrots and crushed pineapple – colorful, but not so good. I think it may have to do with joy and grief, with the elusive nature of joy in this life, and the immediacy and intimacy of grief in this life.
Grief bombards us all the time – grief in death, grief in horrible diagnoses, grief in all the tiny losses that add up, grief that is the constant companion of change. Joy seems more sparing. Every since I became a mother, which is one of the greatest joys of my life, I’ve been aware that joy, at least for me, is always tinged with fear: there is this person I love with the depth of my being and to lose her might kill me. It is the fear of joy being taken away, or the crush of joy evaporating. Grief being taken away is a good thing, a sign of healing, a reprieve from that emotional pain. Grief evaporating is something wished for, but not always attained.
The shared joy at a wedding is tinged with what might happen as the years unfurl: a fight, a divorce, job frustrations, children frustrations. But I think my hesitation about weddings is about something else: they can become productions, and petri dishes of family systems theory, and studies in excess. The true joy that is there can be overshadowed by all the stuff.
Then again, memorial services have as much joy as they do grief – joy for a life well lived, for love that was poured out, joy for having known this person.
And Good Friday and Easter – what about those?
Good Friday pierces me, in the way that it gets to the reality of injustice then and now; violence then and now; anguish then and now. We have Good Friday experiences all the time, whether we want to or not. We don’t have Easter experiences very often, or at least I don’t. The small resurrections we know – remission, healing, reconciliation – they are good and great, but still tinged with impermanence.
And really, the Easter service can be a bit of a production too. There are a lot of moving parts: eggs, flowers, trumpets, Handel’s messiah, banners, extra bulletins, extra people, and hats.
This side of the door (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ image) maybe impermanent joy is all we get, joy that is elusive and fleeting. I suppose fleeting joy is better than no joy at all. But I do wonder what joy is like on the other side of the threshold. Tangible and permanent, maybe.