Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian

Three Days Dead: The Gospel According to Gary


From the Lost Gospel of Gary Larson

From the Lost Gospel of Gary Larson

My son Zach from a very early age was a Far Side fan. You remember Far Side of course — those twisted little windows into reality that appeared in the funny pages each Sunday. Gary Larson was the Svengali of subversive. Insect like people living in the suburbs, cows channel surfing on the couch, dogs dishing out wisdom, and the occasional person observing life’s absurdities. It was actually a little scary that Zach at age six without any parental explanation got it. And got it he did. Zach collected every collection of Far Side Cartoons published. And he collected some of the unpublished ones as well. – the ones that never made it into the newspapers.

These were kind of like the lost gospels of Gary Larson. Sifting through them I came across my most favorite by far Far Side Cartoon of all time.

Penned in black and white in a rectangle 3 ½ inches square the scene is set. Jesus sits slumped over on a barstool. He cradles a cup of coffee in his hands, steam rising like incense. He has more than a five o’clock shadow. His clothes are rumpled and dirty. His hair is wild and uncombed. Behind him is a cave with a rock rolled away, apparently the empty tomb. The caption reads “O God! I feel like I’ve been dead three days!”

Irreverent right? Sacriligeous right? Heretical right? Hysterical right? I go mostly with hysterical because to me it is so hysterically true. What better Jesus to greet us on Easter morning than one who knows exactly what it is like to stumble and fumble in the deadly darkness. What better news after walking through the hell of Holy Week than to wake up surprised as anybody to live and breathe again. This is my kind of Jesus.

Heretic, I am and proudly so. Remember, this little blog is titled unorthodox and unhinged. And I come from a long line of the unhinged whom have known all too well what it is like to stumble and fumble through the dark. The darkness the world calls depression… definitely the down side of bipolar disorder.

Growing up we knew my mom was not like other moms. Reading my mother was like reading a weather report. Today is she dark and stormy or bright and sunny? When she was the latter my mother was the life of the party, a fabulous storyteller and she shopped ‘til she dropped. Once back in the 70’s in a single outing she spent $1000 in a Hallmark Store! But more often she took to her bed for days on end and we dared not darken her door. To smooth out her moods my mother medicated herself with alcohol and abused prescription drugs. Add lithium to that cocktail and she was practically catatonic — beyond resurrection.

My mom came by this honestly, her mom before her had taken to her bed for three long years into the tomb of a darkened room. And like my mother before me I too like Alice fell down the rabbit hole quite late at the age of 48. I will not bore you with the details but ten years ago while I was rector of Holy Cross, chief cook and bottle washer 24/7 seven days a week and going through a divorce I crashed and burned. My days had become so dark I could barely get out of bed. And when out and about I could barely wait to get back in that bed again. After preaching every service, making every pastoral call, facilitating every forum, being at every Bible study, leading every vestry meeting, sitting in on every committee, negotiating every dispute, and even singing in my own choir – I was depleted, body, mind and soul. The parish found me wanting but I had nothing left to give. Absolutely nothing left. So I went home to numb the pain and prayed “Please God, do not make me go back there. Please God, let me not wake up.”

Now these dark days are mostly behind me, but never say never again. There is better living through chemistry and therapy and sound sleep and satisfying work and loving relationships and laughter and long walks and books, lots of books. This is how I have crawled out from under. Crawling my way out from under and back to life– sort of like Jesus in the gospel according to Gary Larson.

This is the only savior who makes sense to me. Forsaken and lonely, lost and afraid, scruffy and dirty, tired and worn, this savior who loved so well and lost so much. This savior who I believe was just as fricking surprised on Easter morning ….as you and me…that he is alive again. Resurrected I believe to call us all out from the dank and darkness of our everyday tombs.

So followers, happy Easter, and let us rejoice with but one voice for the God who’s been three days dead.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


Author: celticjlp

Episcopal priest, 24 years. 15 years, balanced and bipolar. "Associate for Liturgy & Hilarity" @EEC. Bibliomaniac desk jockey and docent at Library of Congress. Washington DC born and bred. Half marathoner and avid pedestrian. Friend to many and mother of four. Blogger, Storyteller & Mental Health Evangelist.

8 thoughts on “Three Days Dead: The Gospel According to Gary

  1. Sister friend! What a wonderful image that I definitely identify with—coming out of the haze of life events, reborn and wiser, but certainly sporting a few more scars. Internal tattoos, if you will!

    • Yes! I think maybe that Far Side cartoon of the THREE day dead Jesus would be good to actually have tattooed on some discrete part of my person – to remind me of your wise words!

  2. So good to hear your voice again. Your gift of personal stories woven with approachable and loving images of God is a tonic. I’ll hold on to these great images words this Easter — and always! I’m eager for the next opportunity to connect with your voice. Thank you.

    • M.C., It is so good to hear from you too! This is my version of “mental health evenaglism” and my cyber=pulpit:) Click the “Follow” button. There is more to come!

  3. Thank you for your voice here. I’ll be reading.

  4. A true Easter story – Let us rejoice!

  5. Joani — I always liked The Far Side. It was always the more irreverent cartoons that I felt sent the more powerful messages. Thank you for sharing a part of your life through a great cartoon!

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