Despair (Guest Post by Sarah Sparks)

Many people are quick to skip over Good Friday and Holy Saturday and jump right into Easter Sunday. I want to explore the loss, devastation, and mull over what those days would have meant for the disciples and those close to Jesus.

If I had been there, today I would have woke up with a sinus headache from crying my eyes out. If I had actually slept, my mind would have replayed the brutal torture and death of Jesus over and over. I would have been in shock and denial. I would have woken up wishing it was just a bad dream. Most importantly, I would have felt utter devastation and loss, and would have wondered why.

I was listening to the radio the other day, and a woman called in who had been through a painful divorce.   She had been married and involved in ministry for a number of years and she proudly exclaimed, “I have lost nothing with the divorce!!! Jesus was with me and I have lost nothing at all!!!” The DJs were excited she could express that she lost nothing at all, and asked themselves if they could say the same thing. If I were to get divorced, I would definitely have lost something. I have experienced loss; having Jesus does not simply erase the loss. Jesus is next to me assisting me through the losses, but I would do a disservice if I didn’t acknowledge the devastation.

Today, as the sun is not yet up and everyone is still sleeping (a rarity in our home), I think back to a few events of my life and experience the pain so that I can more fully relate to the miracle of Easter tomorrow. If I don’t take time to remember the painful moments of life, the celebrations are dimmer and not fully appreciated. Jesus’ was young and his death was sudden, horrible, and unexpected.

My friend in college drowned in a canoe accident. We were in nursing school together, studied together, worked on the same unit, and we had lunch penciled in for Tuesday to go out for Chinese food to celebrate her birthday. Nate, fiancé at the time, had dropped me off at my dorm after we spent the day hanging out and swimming. I listened to messages on my phone, and my old roommate asked me to call her. Once I heard the news, I cried uncontrollably. I called Nate and he picked me up to stay at his and his parent’s house to sleep on the couch. I was in shock, confused, in denial, and asked God, “Why weren’t you there?” She was so young. She would have been a wonderful nurse; her dream job was to work in pediatric oncology. I lost something huge. I remembered that loss every time I drove past her house- she was married the year before she died- every time I walked past her old dorm where we stayed up long past any reasonable hour to study and watch movies, every time I walked through the hall we had classes, every time I looked at photos of friends from school, at work where I noticed they immediately removed her name from her mailbox, and every time I paged through my planner where we had scribbled notes while sitting next to each other in classes.

The other time of extreme loss in my life occurred three years ago as Nate started having seizures. His seizures were very localized and mimicked stroke-like symptoms. After being in the ER three times in one week and having several outpatient tests, they finally decided to admit him into the hospital for four days and find out what was going on. I was seven months pregnant and had to take care of two kids all by myself. The neurologist ordered a full neurological and cardiac workup. They theorized that he had a hole in his heart that was causing clots to travel to his brain. This turned out not to be the case, but it was shocking as we were awaiting the birth of our child and at the same time we were hearing Nate might need open heart surgery. We lost two full time incomes and started living off of my disability income because I had pulled a bunch of muscles taking care of two kids and a husband while pregnant, and started contracting. I was on bedrest starting five weeks before my due date. So two adults on the couch, no jobs, two kids running around, neither of us could drive, a couple hospital trips for me, and we were buried under an extreme pile of medical bills.

To add to that, Nate was not himself. I literally lost the man I married as he was replaced by someone who couldn’t mentally function and was extremely angry. Nate had always been very sharp and fast on every mental task, but during this time he couldn’t think, and started dropping and breaking almost every mug I owned. The neurologist warned that the seizure medications can cause many side effects, and explained she had couples coming to her admitting to considering divorce after one of the individuals starts taking medications. One night I locked myself in the bathroom and curled up on the floor and cried harder than I ever cried in my life because I did not think my Nate was ever coming back. I cried so hard I shook and couldn’t breathe. I cried so hard I wondered if I had done any damage to the baby inside me. She was awake and kicking my ribs, and I just held my stomach and prayed because the pregnancy was the only hopeful thing I had going, and I hung onto knowing that my days would soon be a little better in some ways when she arrived.

Imagine for a moment that Jesus’ friends cried that hard. They didn’t know that Jesus was coming back, just as I didn’t know if Nate was ever going to return. There was no “Sunday is coming” happy-feeling cure-all. In many ways, expected loss is easier to handle; there’s time to grieve and say good-bye. The tragic losses, like the disciples’ loss of Jesus, are definitely more difficult to cope with. Plans are tossed out, dreams are buried, and lives are ripped away. It’s messy, bloody, and traumatizing.

I want to briefly mention the graphic horror of the cross that Christianity often shies away from. I went to a Catholic grade school, and in third grade, my teacher who was a nun gave us the most unique Holy Week experience. She lined us all up, and one by one we walked behind a bookshelf and looked at a very graphic picture of Jesus after he was tortured. Just to demonstrate how graphic it was, it was probably worse than things I saw in Passion of the Christ (possibly due to my age); the image was so traumatizing and disturbing, it has stuck with me this long. I’m a nurse, so I have stuck my hands in all sorts of large wounds and have felt bone with gloved fingers. Yet I feel I can only begin to relate to how incredibly sickening and terrible- I truly don’t have words- Jesus’ treatment was. Not only were Jesus’ friends, losing Jesus, but they witnessed graphic horror. I can’t shy away from that as I know all too well what his wounds may have looked like. That type of brutalization should never happen to any human being.

After pausing to feel the loss, I know that tomorrow will be even brighter. What I did experience during all the painful times was Jesus beside me. Loss sometimes brings me a feeling of peace; in some moments I’ve had a spiritual sixth sense, the feeling of a dome above us filled with prayers and heavenly protection. Sometimes, when I have started shouting in my prayers (not out loud), screaming, “How could this happen?” I am interrupted by Jesus who says to me, “Hey, don’t yell, I’m right next to you.” Without seasons of loss, I would not experience God’s love as intimately.

Today we are getting an inspection on a house we are hoping to close on in the next month. I would not be as excited and thrilled about it had I not been through a season just three years ago that wiped out our saving,s and experienced times I did not know if we would be able to pay for rent, prescriptions, hospital bills, or groceries. So I pause to remember all the bad, because it just makes getting this house so much more sweet and beautiful – just as I remember the despair of the cross in order to remind me of just how profound Easter morning truly is.

**Cover Image from http://t.wallpaperweb.org/wallpaper/nature/1366×768/Stormy_Sky_1366x768.jpg**

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Thanks for taking the time to read and engage. I look forward to your feedback, I welcome any criticism. However, as my goal here is mutualy respectful, beneficial conversation, I only ask that we keep civility in mind with our words. Grace and Peace.

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