It’s one of those Good Fridays that lends itself to solemnity. Fog. Rain. Damp chill that follows you, even indoors. I should be getting in my car to go to Good Friday service, to follow that ancient liturgy, remember the story with others who seek to make sense of all this marked day means year after year. But I’m not. I am sitting here, unable to shake the words, the face, the anguish of J.P. A man tormented, relentlessly, by demons he’s been unable to shake. A lifetime of pain that expresses itself in ugly words, aggressive and violent behavior, addiction, literally uncontrollable rage. He prays all the time. Carries a rosary, pleads with Jesus to save him. Pounds walls, waves knives, talks about getting a gun to kill those he thinks are against him and what he thinks is the right way to be in the world. Recounts his numerous sins, wonders aloud if God will forgive him, bows his head in shame.
There’s a clinical diagnosis for him, I am sure. Likely several. Over the years I’ve known him, he has resisted any kind of medical treatment, certain God will save him, that Jesus is all he needs. “Medication is its own kind of demon,” he said to me once, “and I don’t need any more demons.” He talks about angels, too, angels living in the human bodies of those who’ve tried to love him, to be his friends, those who keep opening the door for him time and time again to help him work toward some semblance of stability and safety.
Some versions of the story we remember today say the earth stood still the moment Jesus of Nazareth breathed his last. An attentiveness of the highest order to hold vigil with One who would choose death to show that there is no place Love will not go. And so the earth stood still, centered on that hill of skulls, keeping watch over the broken, battered body of Jesus.
Angels keeping watch, standing between the demons and the lives they seek to devour. I encounter both, every day. It’s ugly. Messy. Heart-breaking. We scrabble for any small sign of life, of hope, of a step forward. It comes, often, in ways we cannot predict or anticipate. All those years ago on a cross studded with nails, soaked in blood. This morning, in J.P. pulling out his calendar and writing down an appointment to see a therapist.
“…let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made…” --Good Friday liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer