The word ‘holiday’ only means ‘holy day,’ and even if sometimes what it really means is that schools and post offices are closed and there are sales on cars and mattresses, sometimes holidays really do retain some holiness. This Saturday was Holy Saturday, and it was. Saturday was beautiful. Saturday was why I’m in Russia. Saturday was holy.
If you haven’t yet read the previous post, about Good Friday, you can do that now; this one will still be here when you’re done, and it will be easier to understand. And: because I am, simply, the worst at getting the pictures I need, I don’t have one of two students sharing any of this day at my apartment. I do have a Google Street View screencap that shows the same park mentioned near the end, with an open inviting path in from the world to a peaceful garden of sunlight and calm and stretched metaphors. If I was good enough with Photoshop to combine an Avengers poster, an IHOP menu image of biscuits and eggs, and church-wall art of the Crucifixion in silhouette – it’ll make sense in a minute, I swear, maybe – I would have. But I didn’t. But on to the day itself:
I went to meet my two incoming breakfasters at the metro. One, the most regular attendee, who’d been coming to both movie night on Fridays and my small gathering on Saturdays. With those, plus class, I spent most of my waking time between early afternoon Friday and Saturday in a room with him, and had thereby established more friendship with him that with any other student so far. The other, his classmate, the first girl invited over for breakfast. She arrived first, and I asked her if she was okay, what was happening between them – from crying on the sidewalk yesterday to smiling through the party, two hours apart. She said it was okay; they’d just broken up, but ‘it is better this way, I think.’ She’d excitedly accepted the invitation to come, knowing they’d be the only two her. Then he arrived and we chattered about what to make for breakfast.
We made biscuits and bacon and eggs. My music was playing loud, I showed her how to cut butter into flour and told him about the bands that were playing, and there was tea and laughter and a happy floury mess. We corrected the endings on my Russian nouns and ate and had a good time. Then we watched The Avengers because it’s awesome (and I can kinda understand the one scene in Russian) and wondered what to do next. It was nearly three, about the time I usually have to make everyone leave because I teach later that afternoon, but not today (not because of the holiday, only a scheduling thing).
But over a second round of tea, the movie from last night came up: what did they think? What did they feel, or understand about the characters? How well did they know the true story of Good Friday? And here’s where things got serious: my perfunctory effort to at least toss some hint of God message out found a serious bite, and all I could do was hold on and hope the Spirit was going to help me because I was out of my league about sharing this stuff.
So we talked back and forth from the movie to the true story: the father making a sacrifice, the depth of love. The bored people on the train who never knew or cared what had happened, and the lost abandoned lonely junkie girl who saw the man and son on the platform and the mad raving figure by the bridge the next day, and who alone understood. Her own tiny son and the man’s realization of new life arising from death.
But here we’re just discussing movies and allegories. I’ve done that. Now it gets deep. What does it mean, really, to be a believer? To be saved? Why was Jesus’ sacrifice necessary? What will you see if you start to read this story for yourself? Not too many spoilers – I want them to discover for themselves, not just from me – but what does the death of Jesus mean, after thinking about the life of Jesus? Of the two students drinking tea in my living room as the afternoon wore on, he was much more interested: he’s excited to read the book for himself and is ready to accept that it’s the truth – only, he doesn’t know the story. Jesus died, and He rose again, and somehow that ‘saves’ us – that’s about what he knows. She had been churched young, and knew a bit more, but was skeptical and unconvinced. At one point, I hit a snag when the conversation faltered: I didn’t want to force the topic if they didn’t care any more, and she said we may as well talk about something different, something easy like superheroes or rock bands. But even when he left the room for more than ten minutes, I gently hammered at her with big questions, and she engaged and thought and answered. Then he returned and we kept going, deeper and realer and more honest than I’d ever found myself before.
In the end, I shared the entire essential Gospel with them: from Abraham, briefly, and the prophets on: the promised Savior, the perfect Man who was also God, the reality of sin, the spotless sacrifice, the meaning of belief and relationship with God and finally the simple fact: all this knowledge of Jesus is good, but it doesn’t save. Finally, the presentation of a choice: to accept or decline this most amazing gift. Just like I’d heard about doing, or glanced off briefly, I was really putting it all out there. I mean, I’ve talked about God before, or the Gospel, to nonbelievers even, but never like this. Not even close. I didn’t know I had it in me, and probably I was right, but the Spirit was unquestionably there, in my living room, as the sunlight moved across the floor and the conversation went deeper and deeper and still they listened and answered and considered it all. It was very strange for me, but amazingly peaceful, not scary, and as rewarding as nearly anything I can think of.
They stayed until five thirty. They’d been here for seven hours. They both promised they’d read their new Bibles, and we could talk about them any time, like next Saturday.
It’s a good thing my lessons were ready for Monday, because I was not about to get anything done for school the rest of the day. The most productive thing I did the rest of the day was go to the grocery store for the wherewithal for an Easter Sunday dinner the next day – but first I sat in the small park across the street from the store, resting in the evening sunlight. Warm days had been increasing in frequency and intensity for weeks, but only now was it truly real spring. I thanked God a lot for that day. Then I made a nice dinner and Skyped my family and managed to tell them most of what had been great recently.
On Saturday, I invited student-friends over and we laughed and ate and I shared awesome American culture with them, but when the chance came to do what I’m really here to do, I had to go for it. God brought me around the world to do this, so He wasn’t going to leave me helpless when His timing brought together students ready to listen, a recent presentation of a partial Gospel, and space to talk. God was and is using me, and I can’t wait to see what happens with these two students as they read and discover more and ask questions of me, of themselves, and of God. This was all a wonderful set of thoughts by which to go to sleep before Easter Sunday. By His death, Jesus showed a love which is worth sharing with all even now and to the end of time; now let Him rise!