A friend of mine (a cousin, actually, who is also my friend) has been traveling in New England. One of the lodgings he stayed in recently was a lovely old Maine countryside B&B attached to a pub. It was lovely to look at at least, he said, as it did not serve him a lovely New England breakfast. Amidst its otherwise quaint furnishings, it featured a rather uncomfortable bed. He described resting on that piece of furniture as being like sleeping on the floor of a taxi cab, an analogy that, however unlikely it may seem, certainly embodies well the level of discomfiture.
And that is the theme of today’s blog, not the floor of a taxi cab—which in my day was always stickier than it was hard, though with Uber that has all thankfully changed—but rather one’s bed. For one knows the dictum well enough to be able to finish it from the partial quotation in the title above: “Well, you’ve made your bed, and now you’ll have to sleep in it!” The meaning is, of course, not quite that of “karma,” which, I explained in a blog of a few weeks ago, is a Weltanschauung to which I am glad that I personally don’t share, as were it true, I imagine that I would myself constantly be on the receiving end of retribution of some kind. Rather, the maxim to which this title alludes is a doctrine of just consequences. It means, “Well, you’ve made a bad decision, and now you’ll just have to live with the result(s) of that decision.”
Now that’s as good as far as it goes, I suppose, as there’s some truth to it. If you get a tattoo on your hind quarters that says, “Mary and Bob,” inside of a heart with an arrow through it, but you wind up breaking up with Mary or you want to change your name to Robert (or Roberta, which nowadays has become increasingly more common), either you will wind up always keeping your pants on or you will have to have the tattoo removed, though even then it may still be somewhat visible to the naked eye. And that would be, in any case, a pain in the … .
But I leave the tattoo aside to get back to the expression about the bed, which, I think, the example of the tattoo amply demonstrates, can be true. I say “can be true” and not “is true,” because it is Good Friday today, and on the third day, Easter. And what do these two holidays (in the true etymological sense of that word) mean? They mean, “You’ve made your bed, now come sleep in this much more comfortable one where you can find real rest.” That’s a very strange variant on the dictum, isn’t it?
What do I mean by such a variation? I mean that these two holidays are a bit different than either of them is billed as (Good Friday is not “billed” at all, and Easter is billed as chocolate and bunnies and eggs, an incongruous enough combination, confusing even to children). They are in fact kind of opposites of each other. On Good Friday one man dies for all. On Easter Day, that same man rises. We love the optimism of the second part of the formula. We might even be tempted to say that’s what the formula is all about—optimism, symbolized in a story that isn’t physically or historically true but is psychologically true. But even if you were to accept such a superficial and facile explanation of Easter, which I do not, that still leaves Good Friday dangling.
Good Friday is all about the aforementioned bed. Unlike the tattoo that is hard to eradicate and usually but imperfectly and painfully removed, the bed in which you are supposed to sleep for your past mistake(s) can be removed—indeed was, a long time ago. It was removed in or about 33 A.D. when one man died for all, for he died as a ransom. He eradicated utterly and completely the blotches that were far more than merely blotches—they were deeply clinging cancerous tumors in our souls. He didn’t just shrink them by divine radiation or by setting an example of how to live in a better way. Rather, he took them all into his own body, and they killed him, as cancerous tumors are known to do. And when he died with them, they died with him.
So back to the bed that you’ve made. No, you don’t have to sleep in it. You might choose to, even though you know it’s quite uncomfortable and you won’t rest well in it—in fact you’ll quite possibly wake up more tired than when you went to bed in the first place. But you don’t have to sleep in it. With a dash of wisdom and a little courage, you can muster the strength to choose to sleep in quite a more comfortable bed in which you will find true rest, for it has been bought for you and given to you for free. For that is what grace and Good Friday, and Easter, too, are all about. Good Friday has paid for your new, comfortable bed. Easter gives you the courage to choose to sleep in it.
Happy Easter! Or, as the Greeks say, ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!