“There they crucified Him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in between.”
The shad are running in the James River right now. Millions of shiny ocean fish swimming upriver to spawn, then heading back out to sea. Shad are not a great fish to eat, but they’re wonderful to catch when they’re running. They put up a great fight, and you can catch 20-30 in an hour. Two days ago I rose before the sun and went fishing down by the 14 St, bridge. As I stood on the south shore facing downtown, the river looked docile and just…normal. There was no sign of the great swarms of fish swimming up the river. The normal appearance on the surface of the water belied the twisting, shimmering turmoil of millions of shiny silver creatures chaotically, instinctively, swimming upriver. Standing on the shore I was aware of the gulf the river makes between each shore, the juxtaposition nature gives us: a powerful, ever-changing force, roiling with unseen life, chemically distinct from the stoic land masses at either shore. A river is a dynamic movement in between two static masses.
This is the time of year when the sun and the moon hang in the air together at sunrise and sunset, and as I stood on the shore I saw both the setting moon on my left and the rising sun on my right. These two celestial bodies greeting each other from opposite horizons reminded me of Marilynn Robinson’s description of a similar scene in her novel Gilead. She writes of that great orbital tension, “Then I realized that what I saw was a full moon rising just as the sun was going down. Each of them was standing on its edge, with the most wonderful light between them. It seemed as if you could touch it, as if there were palpable currents of light passing back and forth, or as if there were great taut skeins of light suspended between them.”
We exist between the sun and the moon, illuminated by those great skeins of light. A planet full of life and action; people, animals, plants, all growing, living, dying, and reproducing themselves over and over again throughout the ages. Our earth, our world, is a dynamic movement in between two heavenly bodies.
The movement in our lives can be found in what’s between. Not the before, not the after, but the space in between. The birth and the death are significant, but it’s the life that matters. The growth of our bodies and our hearts and our souls, they don’t happen at the beginning or the end, that transformation happens in between.
And so Jesus trudges up the hill to the place of the skull to inhabit reconciliation, and become a wild, primal river between the shores of life and death. To become the great skein of light between the heavenly sphere of the divine and the dirty sphere of the human.
Now, at the place of the skull, we have Jesus in between two criminals, one chastising Him and one asking for salvation. The criminals on either side of Jesus that day may as well be us. Sometimes we chastise and sometimes we ask for salvation, but we always have Jesus next to us, in between who we are and who we want to be. In between God’s dream and our reality. And most importantly, in between ourselves and everyone we encounter. Those criminals may as well be us, but they could be an estranged parent and child. Victim and perpetrator. You and someone you don’t understand. Jesus, the river, the Light, is the dynamic movement in between all of us. He is the teeming, roiling life just beneath the surface of what we can see. He is the Light that stretches out across the world and brings life to all who bask in it. In the heartbreak of this day and this moment, consider the gift we’ve been given: a life with Jesus in between.