As a young psychotherapist I went into analysis and engaged in the long process of opening wounds from the past, raging and grieving, and coming to acceptance. The process stripped away my functionality, throwing me into a chaos of frightening memories and overwhelming emotions. I would say to my analyst, “Why do I have to relive all these things? It’s going to kill me!” And, to my horror, she would reply in an unexpected way. She would say, “Yes, hopefully much in you will die. You have to let go and just let the process carry you. There’s new life after that death. But it is not in your control. Trust your deeper wisdom.”
She was right, of course. My traumas had frozen me. Bits of my psyche were cut off and shut away in inner rooms with steel doors. A lot of my energy went into keeping those doors shut. Unleashing the memories and working through the feelings associated with them meant that all the doors flew open. I had no control over it and I thought it would go on forever. But there was an end to it, and new life. My energy was freed from all the stuff of the past and available for creative new things.
I hate the theology of sacrificial atonement because of who it makes God out to be. I don’t believe that God is some cosmic judge caught in the spiderweb of his own laws. I don’t believe that God is forced to sacrifice his Son, part of his very nature, in order to get around a set-in-stone judgment that humanity is doomed because of our sin. But Jesus’ Passion does free us.
Jesus leads us through the horrifying experience of suffering at the hands of others. He suffers the very worst anyone can throw at him. His choice is always to welcome what comes with love, and that means relinquishing control. Therefore he doesn’t strike out. He doesn’t hurt anybody. He says what needs to be said and no more. And they go ahead and torture and kill him. He suffers all the way to the end. There is no stopping it. But after that comes new life, and freedom from every possible concern. And that is true not only for Jesus, but for each of us as well.
As we go through this Holy Week journey in this time of global suffering, may we choose the Way of Jesus. May we let go of any control we think we might have. May we act and react in love, not striking out, refraining from harm. May we see our part in how things unfold all the way to the end. May we live in such a way that our Lord, who suffered the Way of the Cross, has nothing to be ashamed of in us.
It won’t stop horrible things from happening. We’ll go all the way down, and much that we love will die. But we can trust the deeper wisdom of God. The promise to us always is that afterwards there is new life. We will be free in ways we may never have dreamed were possible. This will happen whether we believe it will or not. But having faith in God’s subversive and unsuppressable new life is what makes us an Easter people.