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April 9, 2020

Light in Darkness: Not a Wholly Unprecedented Holy Week

Dr. Pam King explores how our beliefs can bring hope and light to our lives during dark times like COVID-19.

Photo on Unsplash

This is week 4 of shelter-in-place for many of us. It is also a very holy week for those celebrating Passover and/or Lent. Although typically much of our world races through these days to the finish line of Easter baskets and bunnies, I am struck, particularly this year, by the significance of these sacred days. The original events that led to the celebration of Lent and Passover are marked by loss and fear. Passover marks the Israelites’ harrowing journey of liberation from captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. For Christians, Holy Week recalls the betrayal, arrest, torture, death, and eventual resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our current quarantine days are characterized by similar fears of threat, isolation, disconnection, despair, and eventually hope. We long for liberation from our quarantined captivity. We long for triumph over death and COVID-19. We long for the light, hope, power, and life that are signified in the resurrection.

Regardless of your beliefs, I invite you to be present to the darkness, to the grief, and even to moments of despair. They are important in the journey of thriving. Be present to the darkness, but do not dwell there too long. Bring light to the darkness through your faith, your spirituality, and your beliefs that help make sense of this world. If you find that your current beliefs come up short with making meaning of the current messiness of life, maybe it’s time to explore new ways of understanding what matters. As our lives grow in complexity, our beliefs and narratives must also evolve to bring the necessary breadth and depth to making sense of our lives. For example, extending grace and compassion to ourselves and to others at age 8 is different than at 18 or even 58. (I’m just saying: at 8, grace seemed pretty straightforward. At 18, I thought I had it figured out. Middle-aged, I’m humbled by the complexity of such a gift.)

In our heterogeneous society, we have generally lost the craft of creating and claiming our stories—both as individuals and as communities. In our political correctness, we have lost our directness in our clarity and sincerity of our beliefs and values. As the old adage claims: our greatest strength can be our greatest weakness. A great strength of the US is our diversity. However, with the emphasis on pluralism, we have lost the art of professing and confessing our beliefs with humility and respect for others. In this crucible moment of COVID-19, our beliefs and meaning systems matter.

” When our lives are part of a bigger story, we find purpose.”

The Israelites and the disciples experienced disruption and disorientation. Just as they both stepped out in faith to the darkness and unknown—the desert for the Jews, and Gethsemane, Golgotha, and eventual life without their leader for the disciples—we, too, must step out into the unknown of this era and forge fidelity to those things that matter and the stories that define our lives.

Dare to face the darkness, but bring the light of your beliefs and what brings beauty to your life. Dare to face the darkness, but not alone. Surround yourself (with safe social distancing, of course), with those who can journey with you and accompany you through the terrain of the monotony, the mundane, and the melancholy of a planet with a pandemic. Bring light to others when they despair, and find those who can light your way when you feel lost. Work together to weave a story that is worthy of living—one that is full of convictions and beliefs of how you make sense of those things that matter most. When our lives are part of a bigger story, we find purpose. What is the story that brings meaning and light to your life?

Although it is overwhelming, remember, COVID-19 will just be a chapter. May this crucible of COVID serve to forge wholeness while you navigate through these holy days. Whether it is your tradition or not, take heart knowing that the darkness and disorientation of the desert was part of the process of liberation. The darkness and disorientation of the crucifixion, preceded the resurrection. May your journey through Holy Week be one marked by appropriate darkness and disorientation that leads to eventual wholeness and renewed orientation of what matters most and of hope. For then, even when we are in shelter-in-place, we will be in a sacred space. Whether you claim with Christians, “He is risen,” know that through being grounded in your lives’ greater story, your spirits will be risen indeed.


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