Well, Easter started off with a bang in Lillianland. At 12:45 PM we were so tired and cranky at work that we finally got on each others nerves enough to snap. Seriously, we were all so pissy tonight at work that about halfway through our first break, world war III started in the break room. First I started talking to Coley, and what I said came out snappier than I meant it, so he flipped out on me and leaned into my face and told me I needed to chill out, and like always that pissed me off more than anything, so instead of apologizing to him like I should have, I laid the fuck into him about how I wasn't snapping, and if he was going to take everything I say the wrong way, then he can go talk to someone else. At this point, he starts yelling and I start yelling back, and then Cindy, the older lady who gives me a ride starts screaming (and I mean SCREAMING) at us to shut the fuck up, and I tell her not to scream at me, and she starts screaming that I started the whole thing by snapping in the first place, and I lost it again and started screaming at her that if she didn't like it, she could leave the break room, and she said "I don't have to," and I said "Well you don't have to be a bitch either, but you're doing that." I know, really extremely mature of us, right? We didn't speak to each other for a few hours, then I decided to be a grown up and apologize to Coley even though he was a prick about it (he's like "you always scream." I beg to differ. Honey, you don't know the first thing about screaming if you think I always do it) and then I apologized to Cindy and she said it was a stupid thing for her to get mad about in the first place (she didn't apologize, but she never does, so that was close enough). You should have seen us though guys, we looked like we belonged in a John Woo movie, standing there facing off like that. The only thing missing were guns pointed at each other (good thing we didn't have access to any).
So I finished busting my ass in baby with my fucking three skids and two L-carts full of stock, and then I helped Jaylynn finish pet food, and then we had to help Grocery finish up since their team can't ever finish anything (in their defense though, Patrick, the genius GM, scheduled like half their team off last night because of the holiday and then when they got a huge load in and they were struggling to finish, he screamed at them all night, which made them even pissier and less likely to work, so when Patrick left we all breathed a sigh of relief and rejoiced, and the good mood spread so much we didn't even mind too much helping Grocery finish their work for once even though Grocery is a really tedious department and I'd almost rather eat my own vomit than work there...seriously, have respect for grocery stockers, guys, they have a really shitty job).
Fun times were had by all. Then I headed off for church, and it's weird, since I haven't been to church on Easter since I went to the roller rink church a zillion years ago. It was interesting. The sermon was rhyming today (I think the priest was getting creative...either that or she was breaking out the communion wine early, but it was fun, kind of like Dr. Seuss and John Donne had a love child who liked to write sermons) and the lighting of the candles was cool. It was actually kind of creepy being in church and feeling an air of formality like that. It made me nervous and I freaked out for the first time in a long time, stumbling all over myself when I went up to take communion. Actually, speaking of that, remember that time I felt so awkward because the usher didn't welcome me up for communion on a few Sundays last year and early this year? Well this Sunday it happened again, and when he turned away without ushering me forward, I said "I guess I'm not going up then" out loud (whoops...I need a day of silence like, every day) and he stopped, turned around, and ushered me up. Um...I meant to think that in my head and not say it aloud, dude, sorry...
All those things were cool. The coolest thing, though, was a little unexpected, so I'm going to try and explain it coherently. Throughout Lent, people were given the opportunity to donate money to buy flowers in memory of someone who had died or someone influential in their lives or whatever, and the names they dedicated would be printed in the bulletin for the Easter service. Well, Colleen Dice donated some flowers in memory of "My beloved Dan," and that really brought tears to my eyes (Dan Dice really was a cool guy who died a month back, if you'll remember, and he'll really be missed). So I was reading about that and thinking about how the whole sermon, the whole service, the whole day really, is a way to remind ourselves that death doesn't have to be the end anymore. We read my favorite gospel passage out of John chapter 20, and when I read how Mary went with the others, found the tomb empty on Easter morning, and stayed when the others ran away, looking into the tomb because that was the last place she saw Jesus, I remembered again how hollow and empty she must have felt. Not only was Jesus dead and gone, but now she couldn't even anoint his body like she'd planned. When she says in verse 13 "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him," I know that feeling. I remember the joy I felt when I first "found Jesus," and I remember when the years came and wore that joy away to nothing, and I remember going back again and again to the churches that were like tombs, looking for Jesus there, knowing He was gone but looking anyway because that was the last place I'd seen Him and I didn't know where else to go. Reading the rest of that passage, when verse 17 has Jesus telling Mary that death didn't take him, that death isn't really the end anymore, I read her words in verse 18 "I have seen the lord!" with a sense of how much joy that must have brought her. "Hey guys, it's not over, death isn't the end anymore, Jesus is alive, we can go on even after we die now because there is hope!"
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 has always been one of my favorite bible passages, and I've always read it whenever someone close to me has died, because something about it gave me hope. It says:
"13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words."
Now, it probably makes sense to you that this would give me hope, since it's all full of those Christian phrases about having hope because God will bring those who have died back and we'll all meet in the air, and we'll all be with the Lord forever and all that. But especially now, I sometimes wonder with all my crying and weeping if I'm mourning like those who have no hope. I'll admit, I often feel dark and hopeless. there's a lot of dark and evil and no one seems to want to acknowledge that or they want to chastise me for admitting that it exists and it has an affect on me, and hiding the darkness and ignoring it have never done anything but make it eat away at me more. I don't think that makes me "double minded," and if it does, then I can't be a Christian, because this is the way I am, right or wrong, and this is the way I'm going to be. Seriously, when that guy said I was double minded and I needed to read more resources so I wouldn't be so unstable, that really hit me in the gut, because no matter who I am or where I am I'm always going to be someone who thinks and mourns and weeps and feels very deeply. If God can't accept me that way, then he can't accept me at all, because this is who I really am, and I'm too tired to pretend I'm not anymore. These have been some pretty dark days since I heard that. It's been such that there's a few words that I actually decided to post, then thought better of that decision, because I figured it was too dark to share it here, but just so you can get a glimpse, here's an excerpt:
I feel like Armageddon. Like I'm standing alone in a world that just blew up, was leveled. Everything is gone. There is no logic, there is no order, there are no people, there is no hope, no peace, no chance. There is nothing, except me. Standing in the middle of this vast nothingness, naked and broken and torn about and exhausted. Hurt and angry and sad and upset but too exhausted to even be able to feel those emotions anymore. The walls have come down and there is nothing left. There is no way to rebuild the world that I once knew. The logic that I once had. There isn't even any way to provide for the basic human needs right now. No water, no food, no oxygen. Yet, I'm alive waiting for this slow painful death to take me away. Just waiting, with nothing to do but be at the mercy of the nothingness that now exists. I will not live beyond five minutes without oxygen, beyond five days without water in this hell, beyond five weeks without food. And I can't just go "find" these things, or "make" these things, or "get" these things, because in this world that is simply demolished, water, oxygen and food do not even exist. There are not even ideas that the mind can comprehend... this thing that's left over is so far from the world I used to live in that the idea of oxygen is not even comprehensible. Who the hell are you to tell me I've given up. I'm not even talking about my house being burned to the ground, I'm talking about the WORLD BLOWING UP. Humans can't fix that, let alone a single broken and lost human. There isn't anything to fix, there isn't a chance, there is nothing. There is only pain and confusion and this huge void of nothingness. There is pain and suffering and hurt. There is lonesomeness and filth and despair. There is torture. This is where I am. Where all the bad is... where there is so much bad that there isn't even room for a glimmer of what might be hope's third cousin or an image of faith's ex-husband's stepmother. Don't tell me I'm quitting. I am at the impossible right now. Even death is more comforting.
Yeah, cheery stuff. I like what this is saying, though, in spite of how harsh and violent and dark it is. I think sometimes that my life has been so hard (and there are those who've had it far worse, I'm not saying there aren't, but I've had really really bad things happen to me) and sometimes when people act like where I am isn't enough, where I'm clawing with my fingernails bloody and dirty, admitting all the fear and pain but trying anyway, and they want me to be better, they tell me I'm all wrong and I need to read this or pray this or do this to change because somehow I'm not good enough or christian enough for them where I'm at...that hurts. I'd rather you stab me in the face than say something like that to me. I feel like the gospel doesn't have room for people who've experienced my kind of pain because everyone else is all full of
shit things I have to do to get rid of my pain, but my pain is there anyway, in spite of their brilliant ideas, and sometimes I want to shake them or scream at them "hey, you don't get it, if you knew how it took every ounce of strength I have within me to get myself to this point and keep me here instead of slitting my wrists, you wouldn't say that...if you had any idea how hard this was, you'd be less of a douchebag..." and I try to believe that, but sometimes survivors who've gone through this kind pain are the worst offenders in the "you should do this and this and this and you're not even close to good enough" category. Talk about losing hope in humanity.
But here's the thing. Those verses in 1 Thessalonians (remember them? I haven't forgotten, it's all connected, I swear) have always given me hope...but I never wanted anyone to know why, because it seems like a really stupid reason. Those verses give me hope because when I was a kid, I was reading this book. It was one of those skeezy Christian propaganda things, some third-rate version of the Left Behind series, where all the Christians have been taken up to heaven and some survivors are left behind, and it's like a zombie movie kind of, because this group of people meets in the wilderness and they find an abandoned house and some food and try to survive, but one dies of a disease, and soon the government catches up to the rest and drags them off one by one to have them deny Jesus, and the two who deny Jesus get to live, but the rest of them die. I know, subtle, right? But this one guy in the group, he's always been the one they look up to, but he's always been kind of wishy-washy and he's never really wanted to be a leader and he's always kind of blown it all off, but they have a bible with them in this abandoned house and he reads it, and over time, he changes. So much so that at the end, when he refuses to deny Jesus and they're dragging him off, he shouts out that passage from 1 Thessalonians (I know, right, how slow were they dragging him that he had time to spit out all those verses?) But I never could get that picture out of my head. Somehow, those words changed that guy so much that in his final act before being dragged off to be tortured and killed, he thinks not for himself, but for the rest who are left alive, and he shouts some words to try to give them hope. If those words were that powerful to him, they must hold some kind of special power, and I never forgot that, even after all these years, even though it sounds silly now.
The power of those words is this: Guess what? Death isn't so big. It's not so bad. Even John Donne knew it (and he's been dead a long time now) "Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so." Death is scary, it's hard, and it seems like the end because we can't see anything beyond it. But there IS something that comes after death. Even in the practical sense that after we die, other people will still be alive, and we can do things now to help them so that if we're gone, they can hold on and be strong and have hope, too. Even Harvey Milk (you know I'm never going to shut up about him) left his story behind in case he died because he wanted it to be told. He wanted people to know that they could make a difference, and he wanted his words to live on after he was gone, and I'm so glad they did, because they give me hope, too. When I was 12, in my little backwoods conservative town, I found a book about Harvey Milk in the library (how in hell did THAT happen?) and I read it over and over and took notes and read THOSE over and over, because whatever else he did, Harvey Milk knew how to deliver a fucking speech. He talked about "hope" like it was a real thing, like it could really keep people going when they had nothing else, and that's what Jeremiah is talking about in Jeremiah 29:11, a hope and a future, something to live for when all we can do is tremble at the thought of death. Harvey Milk's been gone awhile (not as long as John Donne, but a good amount of time) and his story still reaches people and helps them keep going. I know this because it helps me.
What all these things have in common (Easter, Dan Dice's flowers, 1 Thessalonians, Jeremiah, John Donne, and Harvey Milk) is the message of hope; the idea that death is not the end. Yeah, you're going to die. Everybody dies. But it's ok, because LIFE is breaking into all this death, the kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven, you don't have to settle for just GOING to heaven, you can help BUILD it here and now by having hope and sharing hope with other people. Help them keep going. Hold them up just like they hold you, and when people tell you that you're double minded because they don't like what you have to say, plug your ears and sing or quote John Donne or watch "Milk" or do whatever you have to do to remember that the empty tomb means that death doesn't have to be the end, and that there will be darkness but there will also be dawn, and you can't have one without the other, and you have to keep going because if you don't, you give up before you give yourself a chance to live, to have hope, and to share it with others. That's what Easter is all about.
1 Corinthians 15: 54-58
"54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
Listen to that! "oooh, death, where is your victory? You're so scary! Ooga-booga death, I'm not afraid of you! Nyah nyah!" Dan Dice lives on, though he is gone. Harvey Milk lives on, though he is gone. John Donne lives on, though he is gone. I will live on, even when I am gone. There is hope. Here endeth the lesson.
I love you guys. Happy Easter.