Summer camp has been on my mind these days. Several students seeking summer employment have asked me to write recommendations for them for summer camp jobs. As I have done so, my thoughts have become rather nostalgic about my own summer camp experiences – both as a camper and as a counselor.
In these moments of remembrance, I have recalled a host of silly songs that marked my camp experience. A refrain from one of them has been particularly in my mind: can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go around it. Gotta go through it.
Gotta go through it. In this most holy of weeks in the Christian story, we may be tempted to try to skirt around the end of the week and simply leap-frog from Sunday to Sunday. After all, who wants to go through Good Friday? Who wants to go through the contemplation on and adoration of the cross? Who wants to be drawn anew into Jesus’ suffering and death – the terror, the beating, the exhaustion, the suffering, the slow agonizing death? Can’t we somehow avoid it -- go over it, under it, or around it?
And aren’t those the same questions that we often ask of our own Good Friday experiences? After all, Good Friday descends upon us over and over again.
Sometimes we experience Good Friday on a Tuesday in September when the doctor’s report comes back with bad news. Sometimes our own Good Friday comes on a Saturday in July when a beautiful summer day is torn asunder by a dreadful car accident. Sometimes Good Friday surrounds us on a Wednesday in February when a beloved relationship suddenly comes tumbling down. Sometimes Good Friday lasts for days or weeks on end, and the cry of our heart echoes forth – can’t I just go over, under or around this?
We know – all too well – the answer to such heart cries: gotta go through it. But in this most holy of weeks, we are reminded that Jesus went through Good Friday because we go through Good Friday. Jesus entered fully into the sorrow, the pain, the death of the human experience, because that is our experience. Jesus went through Good Friday to release you from Good Friday’s grip. Because of Jesus’ own Good Friday, there is no pit in your life that is so deep, God is not deeper still.
As you face those gotta-go-through-it-times of your lives, the words of the Psalms can speak both comfort and hope. There we find this affirmation: even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
To such a powerful assertion, we may ask “why?” Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow, I will fear no evil? Why? Because Sunday is coming! We know that Good Friday is not the end of the story. We know that Jesus did not stay in Good Friday, he did not stay in the valley of the shadow of death: he went through Good Friday, through the valley of the shadow to the dawn of resurrection morn. Because he did, you will also.
Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil. Why? Because Sunday is coming! Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of brokenness, fear no evil. Why? Because Sunday is coming! Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of sickness, suffering loneliness, despair, sorrow, or terror, fear no evil. Why? Because Sunday is coming!
This is not a mere wish, dream, or an unfounded desire: this is the promise of Almighty God for you. May this promise strengthen you and fill you with hope through all of the Good Fridays of your life.
God Bless Your Journey –
March 26, 2013
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.