I’ve been on a roller coaster lately with great highs when something beautiful happens and I find myself soaring in the clouds, seeing the big picture and feeling so blessed I can hardly comprehend it. And then the stresses of life hit me full force, my knees buckle and I crash under the weight of single parenting, bills, caring for teens with special needs, and trying to remember that I am lovable whether the people I love respond in the ways I’d hoped to my outstretched hand or not. From those low points, with my knees in the dirt at the bottom of the valley, it’s hard sometimes to look up and believe I’ll ever soar again.
As I was listening to a talk by D. Todd Christofferson the other morning, I was struck by how similar my own struggles—and perhaps all of our struggles—are to Christ’s disciples in the last weeks of His ministry. They had great highs during those last weeks when things looked so good. They thought they could see what blessings were coming. Jesus was a king riding into Jerusalem to shouts and palm branches. They had Him with them, were learning great things, people were being healed and even raised from the dead. Really, how much better could it get?
And then everything crashed. Judas betrayed Him. There were mock trials. Peter’s knees hit the ground, in a manner of speaking, when he betrayed Christ three times. And in front of his disciples and mother, Jesus was hung on a cross and killed in an unbelievably cruel manner.
I think of Mary Magdalene. She started preparing Christ’s body for burial on Friday—a tormenting thing to have to do—and had to stop at sundown for the Sabbath. What must that Sabbath Saturday have been like for her? She thought she knew where things were going. Christ had been with her, and now He was gone. Hope must have felt so very far away. I suspect she cried a lot, and hard. I suspect she wondered why, and what would happen now, and if things would ever be ok again. I’m certain she felt alone. I know that loneliness far, far too well.
On Sunday morning she gathered her burial spices and went back to the tomb to finish the horrible task that was also the one way she could, perhaps, find some peace. Oh how hard it is to do these tasks—the things we wish we never had to do, but in the dark valley where we are, they are the best way we can find peace. We bring spices to bury our hopes and dreams. Mourning and hoping to make it through the unbelievable hard things this life requires, we do the small things we can do to try to bring a glimmer of peace.
But when Mary got there, Christ’s body was gone. And even this last, small thing was taken away. I ache as I see her fall to her knees in the dirt outside the tomb and cry for everything she has lost.
But from her knees in the dust, she saw only a tiny, broken fragment of what was really happening. She saw the empty tomb and unused spices and loss and even tragedy. Did she remember the things He taught before He died about his own resurrection? I think she probably hadn’t understood the words He said. How could she? She saw His death, felt the dark reality of the Saturday when she knew He was gone, and now she saw the very real, very empty tomb.
Kneeling there in the dirt, she had no idea what these pieces meant. They looked like broken hearts and lost dreams and irreplaceable loss—when in reality they were parts of something more glorious than she could ever imagine.
How often do I do the same thing? I see what looks like a tragedy—really see it, with my own eyes. I suffer through Saturday alone, crying and hoping I can go back with my spices and try to fix, as best as possible, what I’m certain is the bitter end. And when I’m certain nothing can get any worse, I find the tomb empty and fall to my knees in the dust and beg God for the blessing of a dead body.
When standing right behind me, calling to me with his hands outstretched, is the living Christ with blessings He promised that I didn’t understand.