It look me a long time to realize a Good Friday service is a funeral. That’s why it’s so important to go to church and mark the day. We can’t step into the glory of Easter morning without sitting in the darkness of Friday first.
Let me stop here before going any further and make my confession: I have skipped Good Friday services many, many times. As a child I attended a church that liked to get creative with its Good Friday services, often with horrifying results. I remember one particularly awful idea when they decided to have all of the sound effects associated with the crucifixion performed live in the service. Can you imagine?
It’s been almost thirty years and I can still tell you exactly what a bullwhip sounds like as it strikes a concrete floor. I’ve always had a vivid imagination; I needed no help imaging the horror of that day. I spent the entire service in tears, with my eyes shut tight, covering my ears and counting the minutes until it was over. I remember thinking that when I was grown-up I’d never attend a Good Friday service again.
What happened to Jesus was horrific and gruesome. I don’t think we need an immersive experience of the crucifixion to properly honour the day. But we need—I need—to sit with the sorrow of what happened. I need to take a day out of the year and really look at Jesus, at what he suffered, what he paid for with his own blood. As someone who loves him, I need to be there.
A funeral marks the moment we publicly acknowledge the world will never be the same again. The day I met Michaela at my first SheLoves editorial meeting, all I could think about was funerals. And I hesitated. I knew from her blog that she had a daughter who was very sick and in the first moments of meeting her warning bells were going off in my head. I knew if I stepped into her life and the very worst thing happened I’d have to go to the funeral and I didn’t know if I could do it. I remember being so afraid of the possibility of grief and then feeling ashamed–what would my discomfort be next to her agony? I was embarrassed the thought ever crossed my mind.
Little did I know that the very worst thing would happen just a few months later. And when the day of the funeral came I knew I did not want to be in that room, but I could not imagine being anywhere else. I thought that day was going to be awful, but it was beautiful. It was heartbreaking and sad and there were moments I couldn’t catch my breath for the tears—but it was beautiful. I felt the honour of being allowed into such a sacred space. Together we stepped into the holy work of showing up when you know there’s nothing in the world you can do to fix what’s broken. Funerals are important.
When Good Friday comes, I’m not going to want to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. I’m probably going to get dressed slowly and drag my feet a little, but I’ll show up at the service. I’ll sit with the tears and a purse stuffed full of Kleenexes and honor Jesus’ life by doing the intimate work of mourning. Knowing him means we can’t just skip over the hard parts. So I’ll stand there, sodden and uncomfortable and remember how much I love him. Good News is coming on Sunday, but we have to walk this road through Friday to get there.