When I started writing for Busted Halo, the first piece I wrote, “What Sticks To Our Fingers,” was about death and what is left to us after a loved one passes on. It was pretty intense. And sad. I’ve been told, also moving. My editor suggested that for my first Busted Halo post I might want to write something a tad less saddening. (Is that a word? Is it theological?) We ended up running “What Sticks to Our Fingers” after all, but here’s the other piece I came up with:
We are in the run-up to Easter, and it always makes the hair on the nape of my neck stand up. It is so definitely not fun. I’m one of those people for whom saying the Stations of the Cross is the equivalent to getting a root canal job done without Novocain. I just can’t do suffering. It hurts too much. Part of the problem is that we live in a culture that does not do suffering. We are good at complaining, as in: This is a very bad hair day; my kid is not toilet-trained yet and I am in despair; my mother-in-law calls three times a day; and my car makes this funny crrsshhkk sound as it goes around a corner. What is that about?
So, signing on to a religion that has a substantial amount of pain at its core is a very radical and scary thing to do. I know that in the end it turns out all right. More than all right. I carry pictures in my head of the people in the upper room that day when the Holy Spirit lit on their heads in tongues of flame. But at this time of the year — with my teensy-tiny attention span — I have difficulty seeing beyond Jesus’ suffering to the glorious end point.
I have a modest proposal. Let’s insert a scene selection button into Holy Week. I can imagine myself lounging on the sofa, looking at what’s to come — the Via Dolorosa — and rearing back in horror. “Say it ain’t so!” I mutter, pressing the scene button and re-envisioning how the lead up to Easter should go.
Jesus comes into Jerusalem on a fine, white charger, all of the red leather trappings gleaming in the hot sun. He is welcomed by the High Priests. He is invited to lie down to supper with the Romans and fêted with song, wine, and some very delicious olives sent especially from the countryside. There is no betrayal, no scourging, no horrific walk down the Via Dolorosa, and no ending that we can scarcely bear to witness.
Instead, Jesus hands out boxes of tiny donut holes to his followers, and all is well (except for those who would have preferred chocolate instead of the glazed Munchkins.) People sign on to his renewal of faith and pledge to follow his way with no complaining. His dear mother, Mary, does not have to suffer with her son but instead hands out cups of hot strong coffee to His followers, happy that Simeon’s dire prophecy has not come true. She imagines a small stone house with olive vines growing around its walls and Jesus, her son, growing old and wise along with her, practicing his carpenter’s trade.
In my alternate Easter there will be no pain, no beating, and no accusations of the innocent. In this universe Pilate will hand out chocolate Easter eggs — having discovered that worshipping chocolate totally works — and his hard, ruthless interior will have disappeared. In this world, nothing hard will be asked of me, no sacrifices need be made. I smile in relief, thinking, This is a religion I can get behind! Coffee, donut holes, chocolate and an absence of suffering!
Bemused by my happy rewriting of history, I forget that there is one small, infinitesimal problem. Hardly worth mentioning. When I die, there will be a pause, a moment of silence as I come to the startling revelation — there is also no resurrection.