The passion and death of Christ is a timeless mystery, throwing redemption backwards and forwards in time. It is timeless, too, in that it is ongoing. It is still being lived out. Christ is still dying, in multifarious fashion, within our sufferings. We all have our passion narratives, our Good Friday stories at whose centre lies the cross, with all its bitter shame and real death.
Recently a lady shared with me her passion narrative. With her permission, I share it with you, verbatim, uncensored, earthy, tragic… It’s the passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, according to one of millions of contemporary evangelists, God’s poor, who in their bodies and hearts taste the gall of Good Friday: “When people look at me all they see is my anger. I guess I am an angry person since I don’t have a whole lot of friends right now. Everyone likes bouncy people….with their big smiles and their bouncy personalities. I lost my bounce years ago. It’s taken me all these years to really understand why.
“Father, you should read this book. It’s Mary Gordon’s, Temporary Shelter. In it she has an essay on violation. I wish I had read it 25 years ago. The years of frustration it might have saved me. She tells her story, how she was, twice, raped – once by her own uncle. Funny, how hearing someone else’s story doesn’t make your own sound so bad.
“Well, my story is bad. Sexually abused by my own dad at 9. Something inside of me died then. It’s 40 years later and, really, I’m still in shock. My whole life really ended then. I remember once reading in a book by Joyce Carol Oates, and she simply said: ‘and the spirit went out of the man!’ That’s what happened to me…the spirit left me at 9. I’ve had no enthusiasm, really, for life ever since.
“I went through some times when I was able to bury it, to leave it behind, to pretend, to go on with life, to act normal, like everyone else. Yeah, I went through the motions – I fell in love (kind of), I got married, had three kids – and for a while I even thought it was behind me. I was even able to forgive my dad (kind of). I remember coming home for his funeral, seeing him there in his coffin in the funeral home. His face looked peaceful (more peaceful than I’d ever remembered him in life). The tension and anger that were always there seemed to have drained away with his life. He looked peaceful. I kissed him. I made my peace. He was dead and I wanted to let him and it go! But it didn’t die. It didn’t go.
“It started with my reading feminist books, but I know that it would have come out anyways, in a different way. I read those books and it put me in touch with my wound. I understood a lot. And I got angrier: if only, if only… if only my father hadn’t been so sick, if only society was fairer, if only women had equal rights and power, if only men weren’t so damn macho! If only…Well, I got angrier and angrier. I froze up inside like an iceberg. I was hardest on my family – my husband, my kids, and then on those around me, the parish, my friends, everyone! God, I fought – and I was right too! It is unfair. It is a damned shame that lives, especially women’s lives, can be forever ruined so easily. It is unfair to live in a world that isn’t fair to us.
“Yeah, my anger ruined my marriage, it ruined my relationship to a church I once loved and respected; it ruined my happiness. But something else ruined me long before that! I wish somebody understood that.
“Sometimes I think that’s true, even of God! I’ve grown tired of praying. For a while I was taken with the idea of God as woman. But, in the end, God, father or mother, who gives a damn?
“I’ve such mixed feelings. Sometimes, I don’t even want ever to be healed or happy. I just want to cling, cling like hell to this god-awful death that wasn’t my fault, that isn’t fair!
“But something else inside of me wants to let go. I want some life back, some joy back, some love back. I wasn’t born this angry, I don’t want to die this angry! I don’t want to be this angry!
“Funny how through all this, the anger, the bitterness, my leaving the church and all, what’s come through to me is the cross. I don’t know how to explain it, even to myself, but somehow that symbol gives me the hope that, somewhere does understand….”