Today I visited my parents in order to celebrate Easter with them. We had a big dinner together and were able to spend time together as a complete family, something that happens infrequently nowadays. However, I spent all day pondering the significance of this day in history. It is the day before Easter Sunday. Tomorrow we will celebrate our Savior’s resurrection from death and his biggest conquest over death itself, not just for himself but for all who follow him in faith. Easter Sunday is, to make the biggest understatement I can, a big deal.
However, Easter Sunday is not yet here, and Good Friday, the day in which we observe Jesus’ condemnation by the people and his death, has already passed. On this symbolic day, Jesus was dead. The man who had claimed to be one with the heavenly Father, the Creator of all things and the King of the universe, had died a humiliating death on a horrific torture device, and his body was laid in a tomb and forsaken.
This day is marked by death in another way, as well. It is the first day of the Passover, which is a reminder of God’s salvific act of rescuing the Hebrew people from slavery to their Egyptian oppressors. God rescued his chosen people by sending plagues on the Egyptians each time Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrews from his land and captivity. The final plague was the most devastating of all:
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. (Exodus 12:29-30)
Today is the day when death seemed to win and life and hope and all good things seemed to lose. This thought has haunted me all day.
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Since I moved away to a different city, I have had a vendetta with loneliness and meaninglessness. I graduated from college in December and quickly got a job in a city that was just far enough to make relocating to live near it a wise choice. However, I didn’t expect that I would be constantly afflicted with doubts about my worth.
Living alone and working at a full-time job is tough for me. It seems as if all the hours in which I used to spend accomplishing what I wanted to do have been stolen by my job. I now forfeit my most productive hours to a company which gives me money but takes my sense of fulfillment. I feel as if my sense of purpose has died.
On top of this, I feel as if I am completely alone and in this way also have no meaning. Earlier this evening I pondered a question, ‘Why do I feel meaningful when I spend time with other people regularly and meaningless when I do not?’ Simply asking the question caused my heart to sigh in sadness. I stared at the road ahead of me as I drove, noticing groups of people I passed and envying them for their smiles, their laughs, and their happiness.
As I think more about the question now, I recall times when I felt the most fulfilled, and it was always with other people. It made me long to have those times back: times when I would spend all night every Wednesday with the people in the village (church small group) I led; when I would go on hikes in the hills of the Palouse with friends early in the morning; when I would dance like a fool with hundreds of other college kids in a garage-turned-club-and-sauna. I yearn for simple pleasures which I formerly had: laughter shared with other men, the gentle touch of a girl’s hand holding mine, and the smiles of children showing me a piece of paper they had just colored. Those pleasures seem to have died.
Now that I think about it, it seems as if company provides its own meaning. I don’t have to do anything in particular with another person in order to feel purpose. Their presence with me is enough for me to feel fulfilled. Indeed, the company of another person makes an endless cycle of affirmation: another person confirms I have value with his presence, and I confirm he has value with mine.
Even in this time of great potential prosperity, my status of life in this moment feels bleak. I see fields of gold without a soul in sight. In years past I journeyed and toiled to arrive at this field, yet now that I am here, I realize it is an isolated place. I would gladly leave these gold fields for a hovel where a friend was always nearby. Yet now that I am here, the only source of life I see is the residue of tears which have fallen at numerous times from my eyes.
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Don’t be fooled. Prosperity is your enemy. Sooner or later it brings death. When you have prosperity and no friends around you, it becomes clear that you have less than you ever have before.
I am very grateful that God has put me in this position. He is showing me early in my life that I do not want to live for money. I am in a position that most young people crave, and now I wish to hurry through this season of loneliness that I brought on myself. Yet God will use this season to teach me invaluable lessons; indeed, I have already learned much more than I knew before about the value of friends and family.
Today, on this day doubly marked by death, I feel the sting acutely as death seems to have taken my happiness. Yet it is this same day that points toward the future day, which reveals that death does not get the final say. Life is the victor, and even as I endeavor to live a life of intention in the perceived death of today, I must look forward to where my hope has been resurrected and kept: in the nail-scarred hands of my beloved Jesus.