(with, of course, all due respect to mr. e e cummings)

Sunday, March 31, 2013


I've noticed the past couple of years that the parts of the Christian calendar I like best are Lent, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday.  As I've become more and more aware of how endlessly dark and heavy life can be sometimes, these are the times that have made the most sense to me, because they're the occasions that are sanctified for sitting in darkness, waiting and keeping vigil in the face of the great and terrifying unknown.

As we made it yet again this year into the Easter season, I put on my hair ribbon, trekked out to church, and thought the whole time about an Easter two years ago.  I had arrived home from Aleppo the day before and was completely empty.  My stock of tears had been overdrawn during our last-minute farewell dinner and the two-day journey back home to Georgia, which left me with only brief impressions of different airports and my companions from the semester, the only people I didn't have to explain myself to, disappearing one by one by one as they reached their homes.  I didn't realize it until today, but we must have left on Good Friday, a hurried 6 am flight.

Easter morning, 2011: I wore...something.  I went to church and sat in the balcony, listening dully as people chatted about their new dresses and brunch plans.  As the introit began, the little grey amount of self I had left trickled down to zero and I snuck out the back, plod-sprinting for the women's restroom past a concerned conglomerate blur of choir lady faces.  They sent a friend in after me.  Everything else is, fortunately, mental fuzz.

Easter season 2012, I posted on Facebook that my heart had broken a year ago for Syria and I hoped it would never mend.  I want to amend that now.  Now, here is my hope, my stubborn creed for Easter:

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is a time for cradling your broken heart close; a time for holding it up for the world to see and perhaps learn from; a time for painfully and painstakingly sewing it back together; and a time for raising your head up once more.  Each of these times is important and equal in value.  Recently, I've begun to really remember who I was, what I did and loved and dreamed, before going to Syria.  I've begun timidly to introduce that girl to the one who brought home her own tomb on Good Friday 2011, to see if maybe they can be friends.  I've begun to peep sideways at myself without feeling shame for becoming whole in a new, though still scarred way, without condemning the hours not spent worrying about Syria.

Easter 2013, I stake claim to that confusing and confused text of Ecclesiastes.  It's no less of a conscious and teeth-gritted action than my acts of faith ever are.  But I read those words for today, that there is a time and season for everything under heaven, and that they turn and return, together making a whole that we cannot help but claim.  The time to break down and the time to build up are mine.  Good Friday and Easter are mine.  I will not refuse the gifts of either.

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