I've never been one to celebrate Good Friday. As a child, I knew my dad got a day off (worked at a non-prof Christian organization) and I didn't, I knew that it was the day Jesus died, but really, why would I celebrate that? We never went to church for the GF service- Easter was the big dang deal to me. It was there I acknowledged that Christ had died and then He'd risen- I didn't feel much need to observe the actual death day as a holiday (which, as I'm sure you all know, is a derivative from holy day, so the word holiday itself doesn't need to necessary imply something happy). That continued for much of my life, and very truthfully still holds till this day.
You see, my junior year of college was a bad one. I call it my "dark year." First semester was okay, but my grandma was diagnosed with cancer and was failing quickly, I was struggling with some big time body image issues, and I could feel myself slipping into religious apathy, not a good thing as I'd also made friends with a girl under some serious serious spiritual attack- I might even be as bold to say there were some demonic influences there (but that's scary for me to say). I tried reaching out to some college church group leaders, and that kept me going for a while, but it was only a matter of time before things turned. My grandma passed away my first day back to class second semester. My friendship with the girl grew, as did my apathy, and I became frustrated with Christian hypocrisy as she kept throwing examples of it in my face. I began to date a boy- we'll call him BFM (Bad For Me)- who claimed to be an atheist and who, of course, was very accepting of my currently frustrated belief state. Dating BFM was where it all fell apart. I decided I was going to "take a break" from God- I knew that we'd probably get back together, but I was done for a then. I cut off ties to most of my Christian friends (thank the Lord for the one guy who would NEVER leave me alone even though I tried to push him away). I hung out more and more with BFM and the girl. I made some pretty bad choices in the physical relationship with BFM that left me with some big baggage.
I was miserable.
Each day I grew more and more upset. I imagined dropping out of college. I am so thankful for the professor who let me out of her class past the drop date so I could just have a chance to breathe. Dating BFM made me feel awful, but I couldn't break up with him. The epitome of my misery came one morning as I was drying my hair in my room, bawling my eyes out with no idea why, and knowing that if a bus hit me, I wouldn't mind. I wasn't going to step in front of a bus, I wasn't suicidal, but I was in pain.
But God was working. He kept calling me. BFM broke up with me, ironically, on April Fool's Day. I'd like to tell atheist BFM that God used him in my life, because if he hadn't broken up with me, I don't know where I'd be. Desmond Tutu came to my school to speak and it was a message from God to me. An RA friend was seeking God and I pulled out my Bible to show her some things, and they were also from God to me. I met some new Christian friends that lived in my dorm and one boy in particular just met me where I was at and kept helping me realize God was there waiting. But I was struggling- I couldn't forgive myself, I couldn't let go of the junk in my heart, and I didn't see how God would want me.
And then one morning, I was sitting at a local coffee shop, and it hit me. It was Good Friday. And it clicked. Good Friday. The day Christ died to offer ME grace. Grace, a word I'd thrown around my whole life but had never understood. Grace- the opportunity to come clean, to begin again, to let go of everything, to be loved, to heal. I cried.
I'd like to say that after that day, it was immediately better, but it wasn't. But God continued to show me Grace throughout the next few months. I spent the summer not doing much besides working, spending time with family, and reconnecting with God.
So today, I remember. Good Friday is a great day. It's a Gracefully Good Day.
And I'm glad to be back.