Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Which of us does not know the impenetrable silence of Holy Saturday? Who is unfamiliar with the obscurity of pain unresolved?
Psalm 88 is the psalm of Holy Saturday. Unlike a typical lament psalm, there is no hinge to hope, not about-face to praise. The psalmist cannot muster it. It is as if the writer grew too weary, the pen too heavy to lift. The song simply ends, recounting a painful betrayal. Then, darkness. And not the life-giving darkness of womb or nourishing soil. Murky, dangerous, untrustworthy darkness that leaves you on your guard, unable to close your eyes for the fear that lurks.
As one who has faced the demons of mental illness, I know this frightening place well- the shadows of a mind that feels untrustworthy. But I am also well-acquainted the wounds of human existence: of love unrequited, of grief without consolation, of shame that burns red hot.
I am not unique, not special in the slightest. My experience is simply one expression of the overarching human experience: life set asunder by loss, pain, and even self-contempt.
This is the experience of Holy Saturday: a weighty awareness of all that is not as it should be and the desperate longing for restoration and deliverance.
Like the hustlers we are, we find ways of managing with the tension of unresolved hurt and persistent regret- coping mechanisms that distract us into numbness. Endless entertainment, busyness, cleaning, exercising our bodies into submission- anything that will occupy the mind away from that which we cannot resolve.
I have always pitied the first followers of Jesus who were forced to endure an empty, aching Saturday with no understanding that “Sunday is a’comin’,” and even more so when I understood the implication of that day being the Jewish Sabbath. All coping mechanisms, all distraction strategies were spiritually out of bounds. No busy hands to distract a heart in travail and a reeling mind. Only stillness and quiet to face their regret and fear, the wreckage of their lives.
Today, I will seek to be still, to face the abyss. I reject the idolatry of perpetual humanistic optimism. I refuse to turn this essay back to praise. I discipline my mind, so eager to jump to the resolution of Sunday. I sit in this lament song; I linger in this suspended chord, this unresolved song.
Like those first followers of Jesus so many years ago, I wait in stillness for the mercy of the Lord.