Somewhere in the middle of a this, I began making weekly treks to the Benedictine Abbey at Mt. Angel near my home. I also added occasional visits to an assortment of Episcopal services, where I could soak up the liturgy. At the abbey I met a Christ who understood suffering–a Jesus who a was a great relief and comfort. No matter what my lot was, this Jesus was there to companion me rather than fix me and shine me up. An unspoken expectation that I had picked up along the way in life was that, as a good Christian, I should get it together, be good, and look good. This image was replaced by a Jesus who knew pain and whose own life looked messy at times. This Jesus was present, and even at work in mysterious ways through the painful disappointments and dark nights that real life inevitably holds.
Now mind you, I’m grateful that this crucified Jesus is also a resurrected Jesus, changing the course of history through his ultimate redemptive act with resurrection power and hope. I sure wouldn’t want to live a joyless life devoid of hope. It’s just that the traditions of my childhood emphasized a jolly Easter morning Jesus in a way that discouraged honesty about showing real feelings if they weren’t pretty and seemed to deny that good Christians might struggle at times. I needed the balance of knowing Jesus as the One who is wholly present even when the night is long. I needed to know that all my feelings were of value and that wearing a happy mask was not the way we were intended to live with God or others. Whew!
–Kelly Bean, How To Be A Christian Without Going To Church