By Elisa Morgan
Just a few weeks ago I’d heard the urging from the news to stock up on hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes but because I was momentarily in a retirement age community, I’d determined to get just one container of each. You know part of the “leave enough for everyone” well-mannered approach that is both kind and Jesusy in such a crisis as the one we’re facing with the coronavirus - now called a Pandemic. Pandemic. The last time I’d heard that word used it was paired with HIV-AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. What was happening? How had I landed here? Me?
After cleaning the handles of my grocery cart with the wipes provided by the store, I selected items from produce and poultry and frozen goods and then turned down the aisle of cleaning items. And stopped. The aisles around me held laundry and dishwasher detergent. Various brooms and mops. Toilet bowl cleaner. But where there should be wipes or sanitizer or even hand soap there were bare shelves. As in empty. Nothing. Zip. It was as if a giant had swiped his all-powerful hand over the surface, wiping them clean of any product whatsoever. Or a swarm of bees had swooped them up. Or the apocalypse had commenced.
My heart hollowed. My plan to preserve the health of my husband and myself was shot. My hope of vanquishing coronavirus contaminants from the hard surfaces of my car and home evaporated. Where to go now?
These are trying times. They measure our patience. Our industriousness. Our emotional health. Our tug of war between personal and communal need. Our capacity to absorb change – huge, far-reaching, unexpected, everyday-life-altering change.
These are the times that reveal our faith, hope and trust. Where do we find hope to endure the stunning reality that we are not in charge?
Early one Sunday morning, a group of women approached the tomb where they knew the body of their Master had been laid, looking to find hope in the remnants of his Being. Maybe he was dead, but at least they could comfort themselves with the ritual of washing his body in burial. But rather than drawing up to the familiarity of Jesus’ body, they found the tomb empty. Their hope evaporated.
The apostle John shared the experience of one of these women, Mary Magdalene, who stood outside the tomb crying. When asked why she was crying, she confessed that it was the very emptiness of the tomb that grieved her. “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him,” John 20:13.
Mary’s grief over the empty tomb echoed back to me as I stared at the empty shelves. I’d gone to where I hoped I’d find hope and found it missing. Empty.
This is Holy Week. The week we remember the journey of Jesus from public ministry to public execution, crescendoing in a mind-bending resurrection. The week we walk beside our Savior, taking in his suffering, his separation from his Father, his sacrifice for all. The week where empty should speak to us of a fullness that nothing can remove.
And … normally this week is a time when Christians gather to remember and to celebrate. While many of us have now experienced a few weeks of online church, somehow facing Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday alone in our homes seems quite empty! There is no getting around the reality that this week will look and feel different from our past experience of Holy Week. But it is still Holy. Jesus still willingly went to the cross, showing his love for each and every one of us around the world.
While we experience the undoing of all we’ve found familiar in our days, might we consider the undoing of the One who made our days in the first place? The empty tomb is the very reason we can have a full heart of hope as we stare at the empty shelves.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33
Elisa Morgan is an author and speaker and the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her latest book is The Prayer Coin. Her other books include The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.