Mid-story {slog edition}

A certain unnamed older sister of mine has the Very Bad Habit of reading the end of a book first, before determining whether or not it’s worth reading the rest of the story. I, on the other hand, take the more conventional approach of starting at, well, the start.

Perhaps that’s why I find the annual retelling of Holy Week so hard to wrap my mind around. In what other context can one day’s celebration be dampened by the knowledge that the rest of the week will contain the deepest horror imaginable, followed by an even more fantastical hope? Most of us don’t have the benefit of a ‘week-in-review’ perspective before the week even starts. It certainly wasn’t the experience of Christ-followers as the calendar unfolded during that Passover so many years ago.

No doubt, we find insight and meaning by putting the Holy Events into broader context. Good Friday, after all, is good only because of the Sunday that followed. But I wonder if part of the challenge is simply that we can’t stop very long mid-story. We would be crushed if all we knew was the cross, without knowing that the tomb was soon to be emptied. And so we memorize the week’s itinerary, as if habitual repetition will get us to Easter sooner:

The victorious parade into Jerusalem... furious outrage in the temple... a disconcerting meal among the Master’s inner circle of friends... betrayal in the garden... torture... execution... resurrection.

I try to place myself on the scene, to wonder what it would be like to be any one of the characters. And without much effort, almost against my will, I am there, mid-story.

I am Peter, with bravado that falls apart in a moment of fear and confusion.

I am Caiaphus, the high priest, who sacrifices truth for religiosity.

I am Pilate, more committed to political expediency than doing what is right.

I am a soldier, believing that blind obedience equates with a job well done.

And yes, I am Judas, tasting the DNA of betrayal that lives within us all.

I am any one of these, every one of these. The only one I cannot imagine is the Holy One, faithfully leaning into a story that requires Him to voluntarily sacrifice everything He is and has. He knows the end from the beginning, and still willingly walks the anguish of mid-story.

Just before Friday is shattered open, He holds final vigil with His followers, explaining to them that which they didn’t yet know. “This is my blood, poured out for the world. This is my body, broken for you.”

Individualized, indiscriminate love. As if, mid-story, He turns to each one of us:

I am doing this for you, Peter.

I am doing this for you, Caiaphus.

I am doing this for you, Pilate.

I am doing this for you, Judas.

I am doing this for you, Lisa.

I am doing this for...YOU.

There aren’t really words by which to respond, are there? My heart becomes tongue-tied with sorrow and gratitude, repentance and joy. I know the end of the story, and cannot truly fathom what it cost the Holy One to journey there on my behalf.

The following song is an imagining from the perspective of another character in the story, His earthly mother, whose obedience brought her face to face with the pain her son would bear... on her behalf... on our behalf. It is mid-story, yes, but Easter is coming. The end of the story will make the rest of it worthwhile.

Grateful and awed by how His Story ends,


Email subscribers can access player at www.lisavmusic.com

Lisa Venkatrathnam (words)
Lisa Venkatrathnam and Keith Stacey Rowe (music)
© 2008, All rights reserved.

My son, my son, my son, my son
I’m not ready for what’s to come
My son, my son, my son
Your pain is mine, my son

You drank my love as a helpless babe
Now I stand helpless as you walk away
We should be eating
Instead of grieving

You clung to me as a child in my bed
Must I now sleep with your memory instead?
I long to hold you
Do I still know you?

Time is a gallows for hearts that know too much
Time is a sad song for a mother’s love
As you surrender
Will you remember...me?