A couple of nights a go, a dear friend loaded me up in her car and took me on a road trip to Charlotte to hear Anne Lamott. It has been such a period of challenge for me, I didn’t even realize that one of my favorite writers had a new book on the market. When Merit texted in her Type 7 Enneagram way (lots of exclamation points and declaratory statements), I knew this was the “hallelujah” I needed.
In spite of rain, traffic, and my grumpy mood, Merit got us there early enough to get a good seat. And apparently, early enough to be one of the first people to arrive. The parking lot looked like a ghost town. Had the marquis sign not announced the event, I would have checked the tickets to see if we were there on the right night.
After joining a handful of other women inside, we were stopped by a gentleman from the sponsoring church. He asked us if we’d received the email; Anne Lamott had been held up at the DC airport and would be arriving late.
As the auditorium filled with excited women, I could feel Merit’s energy blossom. Me? I wanted to shrink down in my seat, avoid all eye contact, and just get on with it.
My saving grace was the beautiful newborn baby girl with her mama and daddy in the seats in front of us. Her bright eyes and perky mouth were full of life and love and innocence. That overwhelming maternal instinct of lovingkindness washed over me as I observed her with her family and planted within me a sense of peace.
Eventually, the word came that Anne Lamott was on her way to the auditorium. Within a half hour, out she walked, fresh from the airport in her self-denounced “un-cute travel clothes and walking shoes.” Tired from the 10 hours it took to get from DC to Charlotte, but there, nonetheless, and smiling and grateful.
Throughout the evening, I found myself scratching notes onto empty pages of the book we’d received upon registering. The title? Hallelujah Anyway. Most of the conversation that evening, she focused on how we say hallelujah or give thanks in the midst of difficult times, and how we offer ourselves mercy in spite of everything we consider to be “wrong” or “bad” about ourselves.
When she began speaking about facing struggle and pain, I stopped writing. Here I was sitting as an anonymous participant, but her words were crafted as if she knew that my soul needed them in that moment. I have no doubt the Holy Spirit was working through her in that opportunity.
She reminded us that even as Christ hung on the cross, Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Jesus, sat there with him in that pain and struggle–observing it, living in it. They didn’t turn away. They were, in her reference to Barbara Johnson, “Easter people in a Good Friday world.”
As she spoke those words, I thought about my years as a spiritual directee, learning to sit with pain and struggle, learning to appreciate the yin/yang or darkness/light of life.
The image of these two women at the foot of the cross tugged at my tender heart as I have recently found myself sitting with pain and struggle.
Just as the warm tears began to roll down my cheeks, my eyes were drawn to a movement in front of me. The little babe was resting in her father’s arms, and she struggled to stay awake, capturing one more eye gaze or kiss from her daddy. He leaned over and gently pressed his lips against her forehead, and her eyes closed peacefully. In that moment, I understood what it means to be an Easter person in a Good Friday world or what it means to say hallelujah anyway.
Even as I sat with the image of Mary staring up at her dying son, I was observing new life filling her daddy with love and light. Perhaps as she sat there at the cross, Mary held that image too–of pondering her newborn child and kissing him warmly on the head.
May the lifegiving promise of rebirth and resurrection offer us comfort and strength as we settle into the darkness of Good Friday.