She was crying. It was near the end of the Good Friday service, and a woman whom I was close to had just come back from the prayer rail with tears in her eyes. I was about 13 years old and was stunned. Why was she crying? She had been fine just a few minutes ago. I knew it was not polite to stare, but I couldn’t look away. I just kept looking at her, hoping I would gather some clues as to why she was crying. Nothing. At the end of the service, using the tact of a typical middle school student, I went up to her and asked why she was crying. She explained to me that thinking about the death of Jesus sometimes made her sad. Sometimes it made her cry. I nodded as if I understood, but the truth was that I was very confused.
First of all, it happened so long ago. How could a person’s death that happened so long ago still make someone cry? Second, did she not know the whole story? I knew for a fact that she did because she had been one of the teachers to teach me the Easter story; it was not as if in two days she would be shocked to come to church and learn that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. Knowing that she clearly knew the whole story and Good Friday could still bring her to tears, I realized that there was probably something more to her relationship with God than mine. I wondered what it must be like to be someone who was so in love with God that Jesus’ death could bring you to tears.
I wish I could say that was a turning point in my faith, but it wasn’t. I would attend several more Good Friday services with dry eyes. In college, I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until I realized my Catholic friends weren’t attending classes on Good Friday that I realized I could play the “Good Friday” card and not attend classes either. Several more years passed, and not a single tear was shed.
As I entered adulthood, I began to tackle the obstacles that life throws at you, and at the same time, my relationship with God strengthened. I began to rely on God in ways that I never imagined at age 13. There were days that God’s strength alone pulled me through. There were days when I messed up. As a struggling perfectionist, I hated those days. Having these mistakes hanging over my head, knowing people were mad at me, knowing there were errors that couldn’t be undone—these days were the worst. It was only by discovering God’s forgiveness and unconditional love for me that I was able to rise above these mistakes and start to forgive myself.
I still haven’t cried at a Good Friday service, but there have been times that I’ve sat alone with God, prayed and been so moved by his love that I’ve cried. I have been so humbled by Jesus’ suffering and death for my mostly selfish and careless sins. I have often felt unworthy of Jesus’ sacrifice.
And yet, the 13-year-old in me is still present. She is still there to remind me that Good Friday is not the end of the story. She still reminds me that Good Friday really is good. When I am feeling unworthy and pathetic, her youthful voice is in my head reminding me not to forget about Easter. Jesus didn’t just rise for the perfect people. He rose from the dead and made things new for all of us. He did it knowing we still wouldn’t understand it completely. He did it knowing that we would still mess up. He did it knowing that many would still mock and ridicule Him. He still did it.
I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand why Jesus had to do what he did. Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to have a long conversation with Him and ask Him why. Until that day comes, I have Good Friday to reflect on His amazing love for me. I have Good Friday to thank Him for His huge sacrifice. I have Good Friday to remember that Jesus’ death and resurrection brings the promise of eternal life for me. It’s enough to bring a person to tears.