Friday, April 22, 2011

Odd Couples

It's Passion Week, Good Friday night, no less. And I've been traipsing around South Florida without a care in the world. Easter week and vacation are an odd couple indeed.


There was a time when I was involved in grand Passion Play productions. The first few years I wasn't anymore, it didn't even feel like Easter. There was also a time when I fasted every Good Friday, in remembrance, observance, in gratitude and reverence for the unspeakable sacrifice.

This year I reclined in the sun, using my toes to filter the sand like an hourglass, and devoured a book or two. Tomorrow, I plan to fight sleep (vacations can be tiring, after all) and read the rest of book two on the drive home. All the while, Jesus' body lay lifeless in the tomb.


Looks can be deceiving.

Dead bodies make us uncomfortable. We should all just get past Good Friday and Saturday as best we can and relish Sunday, when we can rise early, and begin to celebrate at first light...after the filthy things are squared away and awkwardly behind us.  How can Good Friday and Easter Sunday even be coupled?

This week I read Wench, authored by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. The title is only the first in-your-face-disturbing word of a haunting novel.

It chronicles the life of a female slave that is wooed rather tenderly by her master in her early teens. She produces his only two children, and loves him for the ease and favor she enjoys as his mistress. Yet she loathes this about herself. He treats her kind enough to string her emotionally along, yet inhumanely enough for her to be ever-mindful of her status as a slave. She lives a tortured life, not because her master beats her but precisely because he doesn't.



During summers, the slave owner would travel with his wench to vacation in Ohio, a free state, and Lizzie makes friends with other mistress-slaves from other plantations. They are so close to freedom, yet so far...again, still, every summer. During one of those summers, Sweet gets word that her four living children back home are exposed to a cholera outbreak, and one by one, they die. She is not allowed to return home, and is forced to mourn as a slave in a free state, a great distance from her babies. 

Perkins-Valdez writes:

"You still got life, don't you?" Mawu said. "You still got a life?"

Lizzie didn't know what to say. Four children gone. Five in the last year. She just didn't know what one mother could say to another when her own children were safe and sound, bellies full, cheeks fat, backs smooth, soft hands, soft feet, minds that could read, lips that could pronounce words grown slaves had never heard of. She was trying not to feel her own fortune. Trying not to feel that this could have been her laying in this puddle of stink, sewing big chunks of cloth into a dress for a child she would never see again.

Jesus doesn't love us a little, kind to a point. That God-Man went straight to Hell to end the devil's status as slaveholder. Triumphant, he took the keys to Death and Hell and rose straight up.

Remember that on Saturday, when he's just laying there, looking dead and defeated in his silent tomb.



He did the dirty work that sin demands, and sinners like me don't want to look at. This wench would much rather look to the reward, listen to the waves, soak up the sun, and enjoy vacation in our new-found free state.

When I see what he suffered, I, like Lizzie, try not to feel my own fortune. When it's Good Friday, even on vacation, I long for Sunday. But when he frees me, I want to remain his slave because of his love, the kind that doesn't cause shame.

Freedom and slavery are another odd couple.



Wench:
(c. 1290): a girl, maid, young woman; a female child.
(1362): A wanton woman; a mistress.

United States:
(1812; 1832): A black or colored female servant; a negress.
(1848): A colored woman of any age; a negress or mulattress, especially one in service.
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