Good Friday: Survivors' Guilt
Today's passage in Isaiah begins with us reading chapter 52, of which the first portion is used as the reading from the Hebrew scriptures on Good Friday. As I sat in my place this morning to read, that passage did the same thing to me that it always does on that Friday. We are bearing witness to the crucifixion of Jesus, one whom we acknowledge as the Christ of God...one whose body is broken and whose death is beyond brutal, excruciatingly public and scandalous beyond reason. This too is God's servant, Israel. Reviled and castigated by nations, held up for judgment and given as a purgative for not only their iniquity, but also for the iniquity of the whole world.
This is what suffering, real suffering, looks like. Even more, we are not allowed to avert our eyes from the sight. We cannot turn the channel. We can't close the site, or move on from here of our own volition. The suffering, though observed by us, is not something we can pass by. No matter where we turn, there it is and we can't deny it, reject it or in any way avoid it.
This is the song of the suffering servant.
I hate it and I love it.
I hate it because I can't bear to witness that sort of suffering and rejection. I can't bear to think that while my life has been so fortunate (even with all my own tragedies lined up for review), the real suffering Isaiah describes is still going to cut deeply into my being. It's a knife that slices into my conscience, rends my heart and opens me up in ways that make me shudder and contract...and yet in that moment...
I love it, because it reminds me that in God's way of being and doing the worst thing is not the last thing. Even on Good Friday, when it ALL comes apart for us as Christians, we have not and will never be at the end of the story. God is not finished with Jesus, or with us...not yet and not ever.
Reading Isaiah, and being reminded of Good Friday, provokes no small amount of survivor's guilt. There is a moment, just that one moment when I fear that my life and survival are somehow wrong. Have I done wrong, been wrong to live when the good of Christ, the life of the suffering servant lie hanging and broken before my eyes? That twinge always comes, and somehow God is always there to remind us: yes, this is the strange, sad fruit of sin; but we are loved and not even this big ugly is the end. Look on it. Bear witness to it. Know that God's infinite love is being poured out over all of this, and that real reconciliation and restoration is being forged for us and that God is always arriving to take us home, restore us to whole-iness and lift us up.
Today's readings remind me again that the hardest burden I have in life, the one God keeps asking me to let go of, is that idea that somehow I am not part of God's plan. That my lack of worth means I am not essential or desired by my redeemer. Yet, that is the one sure thing that rises up from this mess..."By his blood he reconciles us; by his wounds we are healed."