(I have posted this in the past, but it happens to be one of my favorites and is very relevant to Holy Week.)
We are in the run-up to Easter, and it always makes the hair on the nape of my neck stand up. It is so definitely not fun. I'm one of those people for whom saying the Stations of the Cross is equivalent to getting a Root Canal without Novocain. I just can't do suffering. It hurts too much.
Part of the problem is that I live in a culture which pretends that suffering happens to other people. We are fine at complaining, though, as in: This is a bad hair day; my kid is driving me crazy; my mother-in-law calls me three times a day; and my car makes this odd crrsshhhkkk sound when it goes around a corner. What is that about?
So signing on to a religion which has a substantial amount of pain at its core is a radical and scary thing to do. I know that in the end it turns out all right. More than all right. I carry a picture within of the people in the upper room when the Holy Spirit lit on their heads in tongues of fire. But at this time of the year--with my hatred of pain and my teensy-tiny attention span--I have difficulty seeing beyond the cross to the glorious end.
I have a modest and somewhat cheery proposal: Let's insert a Scene Selection button into Holy Week. Then I see myself lounging on the sofa, covered in Dorito crumbs, looking at what's to come and getting a glimpse of Jesus staggering down the Via Dolorosa. "Say it ain't so!" I mutter, pressing the button and re-casting how the lead up to Easter should go.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a fine, white charger (no small, insignificant donkey foal here!), all of the red leather trappings gleaming in the sun. He is welcomed by the High Priests. He is invited to lie down to supper with the Romans and feted with song, wine, and perhaps some delicious olives sent from the countryside. There is no betrayal, no scourging, no blood, no horrific walk to the cross, and no final ending which we can scarcely bear to witness.
Instead, Jesus hands out boxes of tiny donut holes to his followers, and all is well. Even cheerful. His dear mother Mary does not have to suffer with her son but instead offers cups of strong coffee to their followers, happy that Simeon's dire prophecy has not come true. She imagines a tiny stone house with olive vines near and Jesus growing old and wise beside her.
In my alternate universe there will be no pain, no accusations of the innocent. Pilate will distribute chocolate Easter eggs--having discovered that worshipping chocolate totally works--and his hard, ruthless exterior will have disappeared. In this world nothing difficult will be asked of me, no sacrifices need be made. I smile in relief, thinking--this is a religion I can get behind! Coffee, donut holes, chocolate, and the absence of suffering.
Bemused by my happy rewriting of history, I forget there is one small infinitesimal problem, hardly worth mentioning. When I die there will be a pause, a moment of silence as I come to the startling realization--there is also no resurrection.