(why a simple conjunction word makes all the difference)
Good Friday of 2014 I was in the hospital for surgery to remove the fetus from my womb who had passed away few weeks earlier. At the time, with all the irony of the religious season, I compared it to being a living Tomb, one that would be empty by Easter, but without the redemptive overtones.
This year, I sit typing as I feel my little girl wiggle and squirm as she tries to claim whatever space she can find in her final few weeks in my womb. Far from being a tomb experience on Good Friday, this year I’ve related more to Advent than Lent.
This religious season, in combination with my experience, has me contemplating the themes of redemption. Not just the overall religious Redemption-with-a-capital-R, but the individual, redemptive moments and seasons of everyday life, and honestly, I feel a need to approach the concept with caution so as not to misuse it.
In my Protestant experience, I feel like I have been taught to create and rationalize comfort by using redemption to replace a “bad” experience with a reason it was actually “good.” While it may be true that negative events can have positive outcomes, the good does not have to replace the bad. Yet, in my Protestant tradition, Friday becomes “Good” and statements of the horror and suffering of the cross are all too easily followed up with such popular negating conjunction phrases as
“…BUT Sunday is coming….“
I know I can be accused of it just being a matter of semantics, but let me suggest that the phrase should more appropriately be
“….AND Sunday is coming….“
Since it’s a subject applicable to my life today, let me relate the concept practically to issues of miscarriage and childbearing. It is very common to hear women with a subsequent successful pregnancy or adoption nullify (or someone else nullifies it for them) their previous suffering from miscarriage or infertility by saying “that happened, but if it hadn’t I [you] wouldn’t have had [precious living child’s name here].”
Redemption does not erase or replace the “negative” in a negative event. They are two separate events with two separate emotions which co-exist together.
I had miscarriages; they were awful…. I grieved, God grieved, and that suffering was not the way life was originally intended. AND I sit pregnant now with the future Sarah Anne Baker in my uterus, and I do not take a moment of this experience for granted. The redemption that Sarah Anne brings (God-willing… as she’s still not “officially” here yet) does not erase or replace the loss of my previous pregnancies.
Dear friends of mine had years of infertility and pregnancy loss and suffered deeply from it. God grieves, they grieve, and that suffering was not the way life was originally intended. AND they have chosen to adopt. They now enjoy the delight of this amazing, beautiful little girl for whose presence they do not take a moment for granted. The redemption their sweet chosen daughter brings does not erase or replace the pain of loss and infertility that they experience[d].
There is no, “but if ‘x’ hadn’t happened then ‘y’ wouldn’t have”. It is simply ” ‘x’ happened. ‘X’ was terrible. And then there was ‘y’ and for ‘y’ I am grateful.” It is simultaneously “both-and” not “that-but…”.
“Good” Friday was terrible. Betrayal, suffering, death, grief, uncertainty, fear… The events of that day are still horrific, despite the eventual redemptive turn. God grieved, Jesus suffered, people around him were full of pain and disillusionment.
….AND Sunday was coming.