Easter is the ultimate third day story. The other stories foreshadow the incomparable importance of Easter and the victory Jesus wrought over sin. Most of us are familiar with the basics of the story, but they are always worth repeating.
On Friday Jesus endured a gruesome execution. He knew what was coming and he went willingly, fulfilling all manner of prophecies about him. Of course the religious elite, who misunderstood the prophecies and were more interested in protecting their own power than in knowing God and ushering in his kingdom, were under the impression that they defeated Jesus on the cross. In fact, most people who were aware of Jesus' death assumed they had seen the last of him which is why Saturday was so bleak.
John Ortberg, in his book, Who is this Man?, says, "Saturday is the day your dream died. You wake up and you're still alive. You have to go on, but you don't know how. Worse, you don't know why... The problem with third-day stories is, you don't know it's a third-day story until the third day. When it's Friday, when it's Saturday, as far as you know, deliverance is never going to come." Saturday felt hopeless.
Then came Sunday. In each of the four gospels it is recorded that a small group of women arrive at Jesus' tomb first. They found his grave empty. That day, everything about the world and what they thought they knew changed. The prophecies about Jesus came into focus and our hope was restored. He conquered sin and death.
Ortberg also suggests that we live in a third-day world. We are still waiting for the ultimate deliverance when Jesus returns and the world is put back into good working order. We are still waiting for the end of pain and death and sorrow. While we wait we have three choices: we can engage in false triumphalism and ignore the pain that still persists. We can settle into despair, focusing only on the pain that remains. Or, we can acknowledge the pain and suffering while still trusting that deliverance is coming.
Three years ago our lives were turned upside down. Our year from hell (written about here) started March 27, 2013, over Easter weekend. We lost a baby that weekend in miscarriage. That was only the beginning and the next twelve months only got worse.
That year I began to question God's goodness and why on earth I was still following him if he could let the events of that year, blow after blow, pile on without doing anything about it. God was so patient with my questions and demanding and I wrote here about his response.
In essence though, I died a little that year. I experienced death in my body. I experienced the death of some of my dreams. I experienced the death of the idea of the mother I always thought I would be. And in some ways, my faith died that year.
My faith in a God who rewards me for obedience died. My faith in a God who manages my circumstances because I've done my best died. My faith in my own ability to keep everything together died. My faith in my knowledge to raise my kids to be quiet obedient children died.
This past year has been a pretty difficult one for our family. I've been in one-on-one counseling and my husband and I have been in counseling together. We have been working through some hard stuff. But I recently realized something...
For years I have been aware of the ways that wounds from my childhood affect the ways I interact with people but I haven't been able to do anything about it. I've felt helpless to do anything but explain to my close friends the source of my brokenness. Recently, however, I have found myself in different situations and realized in the midst of them that I was trying to control every variable so that I could determine the outcome. And in those situations I've felt an invitation from the Lord to lay down my burden of control and trust him to be who he says he is. (I wrote about one of those situations here.)
Why is it that all of a sudden I can choose to do something different when faced with the brokenness of my childhood? For what I think might be the first time, my sense of self is firmly rooted in what God says about me. I know who I am and, more importantly, the depth of God's love for me.
That knowledge, sunk deep down into my soul, has given me freedom.
It's given me life.
My story has not been a third-day story, but a third-year story. What started with death, pain, and suffering has now received a new beginning marked by life, and life that is full.