Sometimes I’m just numb to it all.
You know what I mean?
I remember the death of Christ on Good Friday. I mourn with fellow believers around the world, on this, the darkest day in history. And yet I don’t feel it.
I remember Holy Saturday, a day of confusion and loss. It is a day of “not-quite-here-or-there” as we sit between death and life. And yet I don’t feel it.
I celebrate Easter Sunday, a day of resurrection, a day of rebirth, a day of new life! “He is Risen- HE IS RISEN INDEED!” And yet I don’t feel it.
I’m not saying that feelings are the most important thing in life- but sometimes we need to feel something. As Johnny Cash sings in “Hurt”:
I hurt myself today / To see if I still feel / I focus on the pain / The only thing that’s real / The needle tears a hole / The old familiar sting… (listen to the full song it here)
Maybe I’m being influenced by this book I’m reading by a Wheaton grad: Feel, by Matthew Elliot. He talks about how we don’t give feelings their proper due, especially in the Christian culture. We always say they are evil and mislead us and should be ignored– but feelings often can reveal the true nature of our heart. I still haven’t finished the book, and I’m wrestling with some of these ideas, but I do think it’s profound. How should we feel? Can God command feelings? Are feelings reliable or not?
Anyway, I know that even if I want to feel aright (sorrow in death, joy in life, happiness in celebration, grief in pain) I find that it’s almost near impossible to force it to happen. Yes, I can involve my mind and think through why I should feel this way or not, and think about the logical reasons or think about other painful or joyful times. Yes, I can involve habits and practices. Worshiping with the Church on Sunday morning can truly bring about true Easter joy. But sometimes to get to the right emotions, we have to travel via other emotions.
This summer at camp was a powerful summer, a truly monumental summer for me and many others. It was full of wonderful moments and beautiful memories. But it also was the first time a guest died at camp. I won’t go into the details, because it’s not my place. We did all we could, maintained safety and followed guidelines, but a young man from a visiting church drowned in the lake.
All of us were lost in the event. We had to continue to serve our guests, yet we were also still processing what happened and grieving together. I remember one night a few of us gathered on the porch of the staff lodge and worshiped together. Some of us sang songs, some read Scripture, but many of us simply wept in the dark of the night. Early in the evening I comforted a friend who was just broken by what had happened– I spoke kind words, let him cry on my shoulder, listened and prayed. I was still simply stunned by what had happened and at a loss for words and reason. I hadn’t fully processed everything, but was able to comfort others.
And just a couple of hours later, after a short meeting, while walking back to the lodge, I just broke down. The pain of loss overwhelmed me. I wept in the middle of the road until I made my way back to the porch, and I continued to weep as people sang and read Scripture and prayed around me. I wept for the young man, for the loss and pain his family would endure– but I also wept for Haskell.
My grandfather Haskell passed away in April of 2012. It came out of nowhere, at least to me. I had left on a three week road trip, and he had been ill when I left, but I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. When I returned, we knew it was near the end. I was sad, confused, lost– and I tried to be there for my family, especially my grandmother. We made it through together, but I realized that night on the staff lodge porch that I had never wept for Haskell.
So I cried. Big ugly sobbing with big wet tears. Uncontrolled. Unashamed. And in the presence of friends. The friend that I had comforted earlier that night? He was there for me, and he let me cry into his shoulder, spoke kind words, listened and prayed. And I wept…
Sometimes the only way we can truly feel something is through feeling something else, experiencing something else, enduring something else. I finally wept for Haskell as we still mourned the death of the young man.
And so we mourn the death of Christ. But how can we be sad when we know that Sunday is coming? How can we grieve? How can we feel when we’ve become so numb? And how can we rejoiced when Sunday arrives, when we’ve already heard the story before, when we’re not surprised, not touched by it anymore?
Now maybe I’m the only one who feels this way- the only feeling I have is the lack of feeling. And maybe I’m crazy to suggest this, but I believe that sometimes the best way for us to feel aright (not feel alright [good] or feel right [correct] but aright [correctly]) is to feel through art.
Someone in the Hutchmoot community (if you want to know about Hutchmoot, I’d be happy to tell you) posted this quote from Steven Moffat (writer and producer of “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock”) the other day, and I though it was insightful:
An awful lot of storytelling isn’t really about making people understand – it’s about making people care.
So I could go on and write about books and poems and art and music and drama and sculpture that helps us feel aright– but instead, since it’s Film Friday, I’m going to look at a few videos that can help us truly feel the sorrow and joy of Easter.
I’m not going to defend them or say that they tell the full story of Easter, but that they help us experience the story of Jesus. I hope these videos help you weep, help you rejoice, help you feel what you know to be true. I know it’s silly that sometimes we need these things like videos and songs to help us feel correctly– but such is life. If you break your leg, I hope you don’t feel silly using crutches. Don’t be ashamed. Yes, it seems silly that you can cry more over the return of Shadow in Homeward Bound than while reflecting on the death of Christ. Perhaps it’s the power of film (or the love of dogs)? Perhaps we’re all terrible, broken, sinful people. Oh wait- we are. And still God gives us these things, experiences, forms of art, relationships, that we might come to know greater things. The smallest joy can lead to the greatest joy; one tear can lead to proper sorrow. So watch and cry and rejoice and reflect on our Savior…
The Father’s Loss- Sorrow
From the movie Crash
How great the pain of searing loss…
The Heroic Sacrifice- Grief
From the movie The Iron Giant
“You stay… I go… No following.”
“Where I go, you can not follow me now; but you shall follow me afterwards.”
The Surrender to Death- Loss
From the TV show “Lost”
“the waters are up to my neck… Deeper and deeper I sink… the floods overwhelm me…”
The Realization of Death- Hopelessness
From the movie Toy Story 3
The Rise- Shock
From the movie Hercules. (Start at 0:45)
Up from the grave he arose! / With a mighty triumph o’er his foes!
The Return- Hope
From the TV series “Doctor Who”
(I used to have a clip from Doctor Who here, but can’t find any current YouTube clips that contain this specific scene. I will update it if I do.)
The Rescue- Relief
From the movie Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
“Look to my coming… at dawn, look to the east…”
The Reunion- Joy
From the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. (Only watch the first half.)
Because He Lives / I can face tomorrow / Because He Lives / All fear is gone…
Mourning into Dancing- Celebration
From the movie Sister Act 2
O Happy Day!
I hope these videos might take you through sorrow to joy. I hope you cried big ugly tears and sat in wordless wonder and smiled and laughed and cried big ugly tears at the joy of sweet reunion.
Like the choir in that song from Sister Act, we know that Jesus has come and lived and died and washed our sins away. We know it. We say it. But do we feel it in our hearts? Do our souls reverberate with the song of joy? Do we believe it?