We were married on Easter Saturday at Oakleigh Baptist Church. I was the assistant pastor during the previous year while completing my studies at Bible College.
It was at Bible College I met Juliana, my wife to be. Our relationship began in the latter part of our second year. It was love and it flooded every part of our being. We were confident we could handle any challenge. We had each other and God was central to our thoughts and dreams.
Our wedding day was windy but the sun shone brightly. A friend offered to take our wedding photos. He didn’t reply to the wedding invite but we were confident he would turn up. He arrived with a roll of black and white film. He talked about ‘shading’ and ‘definition’ but we wanted colour.
Some of the wedding party photos were taken in Warrawee Park, a historical site in the heart of Oakleigh, then an outer suburb of Melbourne. As well as the flower gardens and stretches of lawn it is home to a cemetery. Some of the tombstones celebrate the lives of people born in the nineteenth century.
Throughout my younger years, I attended a Methodist Church adjacent to the park. During morning worship I supervised a small group of young children. We often ended up at the park where I read to them from Patricia St John’s books. We were taken to another world of mountains and snow and goats with bells around their necks.
Our last contact with our son Adam was on Easter Saturday. I didn’t pay particular attention to the weather. It will always remain a ‘dark day’ in our memories.
We were in bed and could hear Adam moving about. He opened the sliding door at the back of the townhouse and walked down the driveway. We didn’t realise we would never see him again in this life. How could we?
He left a note on the dining room table. He spoke of his love for us. He also talked about the uncertainty he was feeling. I recall my sense of unease. I was concerned he wouldn’t be able to resolve his issues independently. His mind was cluttered and his thoughts ragged. He was restless and agitated and needed rest. Although help was available he chose his own path.
Adam took his life on Easter Tuesday. Some describe suicide as ‘self-murder.’ I prefer ‘self-defeat.’ Suicide isn’t a crime. It is the result of a self-defeating mindset that obsesses about personal failure and believes life is unsalvageable. It is an act of surrender, a giving up.
We often think about the ‘silent hours’ following his departure when we had no contact with our son. He turned his mobile phone off and we had no way of contacting him. There were no clues as to where he was going or what he was planning. He travelled over 1000 km. but how he negotiated that distance we don’t know.
In the Christian calendar, Easter is the most important time of the year. It is when believers reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus. There are conflicting emotions – sadness and joy, despair and hope, fear and triumph. There is recognition that despite appearances all is not lost. Defeat gives way to victory. Death gives way to life.
This Easter Saturday we are celebrating my wife’s birthday. Our surviving children are married and we have eight active and adorable grandchildren. It will be a happy occasion as we give thanks for Juliana’s life and the strength of her love, commitment, and care. We will affirm the importance of each family member by word and touch. We will think of Adam and speak his name, nurturing a hope we will be reunited again.
Author and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis uses the term “Shadowlands” to denote a place in shadow. He says, “The sun is shining but not here.”
Lewis suggests planet Earth is the “Shadowlands” and our lives are a preparation for the reality which comes in another world. He says,
“Beyond every door I hear your voice saying to me, ‘This is only the land of shadows. Real life hasn’t begun yet.’”
This is not the perspective of most people today. They live for the now believing this is their one chance at life, this is where the fun and excitement can be found. Heaven is at best speculative and a poor substitute.
Easter Saturday is an essential part of the Easter story. It is a day of silence when we contemplate loss. It is a day of reverence when we value life. It is a day of introspection when we face our fears and think about our future.
Easter Saturday is part of the journey from death to life. There are doubts and confusion, uncertainty and fear. It is a period of waiting, tainted by sorrow, energised by hope. Our starting point is chaos and our goal a new creation.
Easter Saturday anticipates resurrection and a new beginning. It is our ‘Shadowlands,’ a place of searching, a place of stumbling, a place where our character is shaped and the motivation of our heart revealed.