I grew up an easy-Easter girl / now I spend all year in Good Friday
— Beth Malena
When I was nine, my family joined a Christian mission organization and went to Mexico for a few months, doing songs and dramas around various villages. At one point we found ourselves in some nondescript village marketplace, vendors selling sweets and fruits and vegetables and meat on the cobblestone streets, flies buzzing thick in the air. Trying to escape the heat and the flies, I ducked into the largest building on the street: the dark, severe Catholic church. I smelled the incense, the moisture of a the cool, damp stone walls. I saw the flickering candles off to the side, the walls adorned with statues and icons, gaudy plastic flowers sprouting out of vases. But off to the sides of the auditorium, to the far right of the pews, was a large, enclosed glass box. I crept over to look at the glass case, pushing my thick blond bangs out of my eye. I gasped, stepping backwards, panic pounding like I had done something wrong. Because there, in front of me, was Jesus, lying dead in a box in a church. His body was green and purple, covered with cuts and bruises, his eyes closed. His wounds, garish and a dark-burnt red, were life-sized and immediate, their effect visceral.
I ran out of the cathedral as quick as I could, finding my mom studying native handicrafts in the street. I tugged at her shirt, trying hard to keep it together. Mom, I said, feeling the tears starting to come. Mom, mom, Jesus died.
She didn’t understand, until I pulled her by the hand inside the cathedral, over to the box. Once there, she pursed her lips and looked around the cathedral. I didn’t know back then that she had grown up in similar cathedrals, that she had seen more icons and incense holders and statues of mother Mary than I in my evangelical little life could ever dream of. Don’t remember him like this, she whispered to me as we walked back into the sun. We don’t think of him like this. We remember that he came back to life.
I nodded, heart calming, watching the flies crawl over the sticky sugarcane treats. Of course that’s how I remember him, straight from the pages of my Sunday School coloring book: white robe, light blue sash, brown hair with blonde highlights, perfect, smiling, resurrected Jesus.
It would be years later that I would realize what a comfort wounds can be. Of looking at a savior who had experienced what so many had: torture, abuse, persecution; spittle, sharp irons, cutting words, even death. For people to whom life has been hard, there is a form of solace in praying to a God who does not look spotless, shining like the sun. For many, love is the very wounds of Christ, the greenish-purple skin tones, the bruised and battered life. By his wounds we are healed, the scriptures say. I didn’t realize another way to read it is like this: only the wounded can truly experience a savior.
Because now I know more than ever: we live in a Good Friday world.
Every day is bruised; every day is resurrected.