The Saturday between Holy Friday and Easter Sunday is usually a day I spend wondering what exactly Jesus’ death on the cross means for us. Does it mean that God was “dead” for a day? Or does it mean that Jesus, the human, was dead for a day? Does it mean both? Does it mean neither? Did Jesus descend into hell? Does hell really exist? What did the disciples, both the men and the women, do for the day? What does anyone do when they are mourning the loss of a friend, a mentor, a love, a son? Did any of them anticipate what was coming? Did any of them have any foresight of the resurrection, since all the clues were there? What does it all mean for us as Christians? What does it mean for anyone else? Basically, I usually spend Saturday worrying myself into a mess of emotion by the time Easter comes and I can celebrate the risen Christ.
This year was no exception. However, I found several meaningful distractions for myself, which took the pressure off of this Saturday.
By 7:30 in the morning I was picking up a couple of my students, so we could go run a trail race at Mounds State Park in Anderson. Neither one of them had ever run a trail race before, so the car was all full of nervous energy and excitement, as we discussed the possible layout of the course and strategies for running longer distances (they were running the 15K). We talked about all types of other things, too, which always makes driving more fun. When we got to Mounds, we registered, got our bibs, and went back to the car to change. The weather was freezing. Literally. The race started on slick, frost-covered grass. They started at 9AM, and my race, the 5K, started at 9:10.
By the time I made it into the woods and off of the grass, I was wheezing and coughing. So much for the honey helping with grass allergies, though it has worked wonders for the tree and flower allergies, because I haven’t been nearly as congested or wheezy as I was last spring. So, I ran coughing and wheezing into the woods, and I realized that everything I told the boys about the race was wrong. The race organizers used every hill at the Mounds, which is a lot of them, and the course was really challenging. The end of the 5K went up the 80 steps to the pavilion, and my legs burned and my heart felt it might explode by the time I crossed the finish line. But let’s go back for a minute: somewhere in the middle of the race, I decided I should walk up the hills and careen down them, which is a tactic I’ve never used before, but I thought it might be helpful in this race. Then, I thought, if I am going to do that, why not be playfully contemplative. So as I ran, in my mind I thought about the Jesus questions, while using my body to respond to my fears and doubts in a playful way. I had more fun and learned more about myself in that race than in any other I’ve ever run. And, I used the time to do my usual Holy Saturday reflection. As I crossed the finish line, the clock read 00:52:53.0. I had finished this grueling race in about 17 minutes a mile. I was pretty excited.
I cheered for Logan and I cheered for Fred. And then I realized, after they finished, that the time clock was set for the 15K. I could take 10 whole minutes off of my time. I had finished the 5K in my my best time ever—00:42:43.0! I considered this a pretty decent accomplishment, since that meant my average time per mile was 13.68 minutes, and I hadn’t run a mile in thirteen and a half minutes in about 9 months. And this was on crazy terrain! Now I was elated. I was more elated when I realized that Logan came in second and Fred came in fourth in their age group. At their first ever trail race. I was really proud of us. You can see our times by following the links here.
I also distracted my self from thinking too much or too seriously about the death of Jesus by going to some friends’ house for a bonfire. We drank some beers, ate some wieners, and roasted some marshmallows. We also burned a stool, talked about theology, sports, and life, and decided to attend the outdoor Easter sunrise service together. The evening was a usual amazing night with two great friends.