Lenten Prayer Guide: Easter Saturday

Easter Saturday


By Susie Colby

Vice President, Campus

I’m yanking persistent weeds through the black shroud covering last summer’s flower beds. It’s Good Friday. Steve, who has only 15 days left to live, is sitting in the sun keeping me company – that simple act of marriage – while I weed and muse. I talk; he listens, responds, queries. I’m wondering what Jesus could possibly have been praying about all night while his friends kept nodding off. Jesus hosting an all-night prayer meeting, the kind for which we packed sleeping bags and camped out in the campus chapel. In those years we took shifts, but Jesus pulled an all-nighter himself, hoping for company. I’m perplexed: after the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps, and some famous equivocating, what was left to say?

A stubborn root gives up its hold, and I pop to a stand, suddenly as certain of the answer as if it had been part of the Easter story recited year after year. The possibility of Steve’s death has begun seeping into me like moisture absorbed by the root system of a potted plant left sitting in a dish of water. Steve’s prognosis has gradually entered my reality as his response to nineteen rounds of chemo has evolved. And on Good Friday I struggle to face – and struggle not to face – the likelihood of Steve’s death.


As with Jesus’s friends, there’s still fight in me. But I’m exhausted, too. Vigilance is my weapon and I focus its distilled energy on the stubborn weeds that have taken hold during the winter months. As every gardener knows, there is no end to weeds. As satisfying as it is to feel the invasive plant give way and see roots follow stem as I free the weed from the ground, I know more weeds will replace it. Like a cancer invisible in the yard, it’s only a matter of time until the weeds take over. Soon Steve tires, and I give up on the weeds. We retreat to the house.


I am convinced that on Good Friday Jesus prayed that God’s grip on him would hold when he would let go, no longer able to hold on. It’s hard for people like me, who grew up on illustrated Sunday school stories, to imagine Jesus as other than a robe-clad superhero who walked on air or water between miracles and sermons. But on this one occasion Jesus seems human to me.


Or more accurately, he seems most relatable to me, a human. In spite of all the wonders he did, Jesus understood what he could not do. On the cross he would mysteriously take on our inability to save ourselves. No great deeds, no correct theology, nor powerful sermon, not even his own prayers would help Jesus on Saturday. Resurrection Sunday would depend wholly on the action and intention of God his father. On Saturday Jesus would be powerless.


On Friday it must have been terrifying to see Saturday coming, so Jesus prayed and prayed some more. I am convinced he threw himself on the character of God, trusting that whatever Saturday would bring, on Sunday God would rescue him.


That Good Friday was a year ago. The days that followed are a blur – except for Steve’s last day which I remember with crystalline clarity. It began with the 7:30 decision not to go in for chemotherapy. Only then did I give up fighting the demon cancer and shift to keep Steve company one last time.


Since then, Steve has died, and a pandemic has upended the world in a manner oddly correlated to the upending of my own world. I have yet to see our family including Steve’s mom and sister; the border closure was just extended again this week.


I am living Easter Saturday. I don’t pray much. Reading Bible stories – especially all those miraculous healings and promises of life and protection – feels soul-shredding. In our yard the trees are bare. Steve’s favourite Japanese maple slowly died in the months following his death. The weeds, however, are beginning to poke through. I suspect Saturday will last a long time. Perhaps it will last until that day heralded by the first Easter, the day when having died, we all are raised to Life eternal.


We like to talk about “trusting Jesus.” Today it matters more to me that Jesus trusted God when he couldn’t trust himself.


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