March is the month in which we start celebrating Easter. We reflect on our own mortality, Jesus’ suffering, atonement and resurrection. In the southern hemisphere, the beginning of the autumn and winter seasons also marks the month of March. Of course, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the other way around. Here we commemorate these events as the snow melts, the temperatures rise and new life begins to budge. Where the celebration of this time was very much attenuated in Protestant churches compared to how it is celebrated in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, practices such as As-Wednesday services (the beginning of suffering), fasting, meditative walks and labyrinths which the crusades commemorate embrace.
Is it a good thing that we are so attracted to the depth of Christ’s terrible suffering for ourselves? When Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ” made about the very suffering, it was considered one of the movies with the highest graphic violence ever made. In a world where cruelty and violence is still a source of great concern, is it really good to interfere with what Christ has done? Isn’t life full of violence and ugly things? Should we not rather sing and delight in beauty and splendor? After all, Christ’s suffering culminated in his resurrection and victory.
Recently, this question came to me when I read the book “Fat, Forty and Fired” by Nigel Marsh. It is not a spiritual or theological book but a humorous look at his life and his struggles around his middle age. In this book, however, he told a story of his life and shared a life lesson that highlighted these questions of mine from an unexpected angle. I would like to share it with you.
Nigel really likes the so-called. “Wine Gums” sweets. (If there is an Afrikaans word for it, I unfortunately forgot). He especially likes the red and black sweets of which there are a few in each pack. One day he decides to go on a long hike with his two sons. As he walks into a store to buy snacks for the trip, he is delighted to see that you are in fact a pack of wine gums that only have reds and blacks. On the act, he decides to buy all seventeen packages on the store shelf.
On their hike, he shares the good news with his boys who also love the red and black wine gums. He tells them that they can eat as much as they want since he bought a lot. Enthusiastically, the boys get away with themselves. And then something unexpected happened. After a pack or what, they stop and start to use other goodies. At the end of the day when he unpacked his bag and noticed that three quarters of the pack of wine gums was still on, something hit him.
It’s that the yellow, green and orange wine gums between the reds and the blacks make it that much more enjoyable.
There are things in our life that we love less than other things and even things we wish for. But sometimes we do not realize the important role these things play in shaping our character. Sometimes we are totally blind to the fact that these things make us people who appreciate and receive the good things more.
And for that very reason, it might be wise to seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in Christ’s suffering this Easter season. We live in a culture so revolving around comfort and convenience that it may just be the right medicine to remind ourselves that life’s hardships even Christ have not been spared. Maybe it equips us very well to better accept and positively take away the unwanted things in our lives. Perhaps it makes us more beautiful people if we learn to accept and process the green yellow and orange with dignity and people who can embrace the red and black pleasures of life with a deeper gratitude.
May this journey take you to beautiful and fun places!
Author: Gawie Snyman