March 21, 2008

Good Friday

I was jolted awake this morning well before sunrise by a dream that involved me walking out of the Crystal Cathedral (which I've never been to, except once to drop a friend off for choir practice) and then witnessing a plane crash. Dreams like that are why I don't like flying. It took me awhile to go back to sleep, and by the time I did, it was time to get up. If I didn't get up, then no one else would either, since I'm the early riser in this family and everyone else gets up only when I make them. And even though I perform this task every day, no one ever says, "Gee, Dad, thanks for waking me up so I can get to school on time!"

The boys have to be at school, which is halfway across town, at 8:30. Ginger has to be at work, which is all the way across town, by 8:45. So at 8:15, we all get in the car, and I take them to their respective destinations. Then I return home, to do the dishes, the laundry, and surf the internet, searching for a temporary job. Except today, after dropping Ginger off, instead of turning around and coming home, I kept going straight, right out of Burbank and into Griffith Park, to go for a run.

Running is good for me. It helps me work through my anxieties. I find that there is a lot to be anxious about, like planes crashing. Or earthquakes. Or terrorists. Or why, when I write, I can't ever get my tenses to agree. On this Good Friday, it certainly seemed to me that I am living in a Good Friday world.

As I started running, I worried about whether I was helping or hurting my body, given that today's air quality was listed as "moderate," which isn't exactly "unhealthy," but isn't exactly "good," either. I thought about the war in Iraq, now five years old, and whether or not our next president will be able to undo some of the damage caused by the current president. I thought about the comment my wife made to me as I dropped her off, about how our current lack of money is my fault, and about some of the comments I've made to her.

At tonight's Good Friday worship service at First Christian Church in North Hollywood, the sanctuary was dark. The readings were read, slowly, quietly, somberly. There's not much joy in the Good Friday readings. Easter Sunday would be different, I knew; a half dozen fifth-graders are to be baptized at sunrise, and the sanctuary will be bursting with flowers and alleluias. But tonight was not about that.

I noticed that the doors to the baptistry, though still closed, were unlatched. In our tradition, we baptize by immersion when a person is old enough to make a decision to follow Christ, and the baptistry is like a little hot tub behind the wall at the front of the sanctuary, which can be seen when the doors are opened up. Tonight, as my friend Josh played his guitar and sang, with a young woman, the most beautiful rendition of "Via Dolorosa" I had ever heard, the doors to the baptistry slowly started to swing open. They only opened about three-quarters of an inch, but someone had left the light in the baptistry on, and the crack was enough to see in.

And I thought about how, even though it's Good Friday, Easter can't be shut out entirely. The foreshadowing is all too clear. Easter joy wasn't invited to this service of quiet meditation, but it slipped in anyway.

And in the time of silent meditation that concluded the service, and as the sanctuary was stripped of its decorations--and even after someone had thought to quietly turn off the baptistry light--my mind drifted back to my run through Griffith Park this morning, and the beautiful wildflowers I saw growing along the dirt road. They were so incredibly gorgeous that I had brought my camera along so I could take a picture of them, even though I don't usually like to carry anything with me when I run. Even on Good Friday, those flowers were shouting their alleluias for all the joggers and hikers and birds and equestrians to enjoy. The world may be falling apart in so many ways, and yet the flowers continue to bloom. Turns out that, even on Good Friday, there is something in this world even more powerful than death, war, and smog.

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