In his beautiful book, “Telling the Truth,” Frederick Buechner writes that the gospel is “tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale,” all wrapped into one.
“The gospel is bad news before it is good news,” he writes. Tragedy is that “we are sinners,” and that when we look in the mirror we see that we are “at least eight parts chicken, phony, slob.”
The comedy is that, despite all of this, we are loved anyway. “Cherished, forgiven, bleeding to be sure, but also bled for.”
But this movement of tragedy and comedy, brokenness and beauty, plays out in the lives of real people—you and I—sometimes in ways that seem too fantastic to be true.
A person comes into your life.
A mother’s love sustains you. A teacher. A friend.
You find you can keep living—abundantly, even—after a terrible loss.
A child is born.
It feels like a miracle because it is.
“It is impossible for anybody to leave behind the darkness of the world he carries on his back like a snail, but for God all things are possible. This is the fairy tale. All together they are the truth.”
Tragedy, comedy, fairy tale. This is the week we remember that all together they are the truth.
Alone they are not the full truth. The tragedy of it all is true, but only in part. The comedy of life and of love is true, but only in part. That the miraculous is possible is so very true, but it only makes sense against the backdrop of the previous two. The gospel tells us that the whole truth must include all of it—the tragedy, the comedy, and the fairy tale. To focus too much on any one part is to risk distorting the whole. And we need the whole.
All of this is on full display in the story we tell over Holy Week.
We begin in the wild fanfare and hope of Palm Sunday, reveling in the anticipation that good things are on the way. But this celebration is short lived, for as the week progresses we’re reminded that the real hope for these good things is only accessed through our sorrow. Through pain. Through failure, rejection, and disappointment.
The joy we find on Easter morning is proportional to the darkness we allow ourselves on Good Friday. That there is light beyond darkness feels like the stuff of fairy tales. And yet this story only has the power to transform it when we see evidence of it in our own lives.
All of it is there in the story we tell together in the week to come. But it is up to us to tell it all. I hope you’ll join us as we do.