Easter has arrived and we have celebrated the resurrection. I have small bits of foil all over my house as evidence. The stone has been rolled away and Jesus is not there. The empty cross proclaims the good news and ushers me into a fifty-day season for practicing resurrection. And I’m staring at the pile of candy wrappings realizing that I do not know how to rise.
It isn’t as if I am particularly good at Lenten discipline, but at least I know what I ought to do and how frequently I fail. That is easy enough to confess. But over this last holy week, God met me and repeatedly asked me to let him do the heavy lifting. Let me wash your feet. Give me the cross you’re carrying. Allow me to kiss your wounds. Let me wrap you and bless you. And let me roll away the stones. I do not know how to let Him because I cling to the suffering and the dying.
I keep dropping the sadness I am trying to carry, and then tripping in it and falling. I’m making back-up plans for the back-up plans, just in case. I know that nagging my kids isn’t working, but I am afraid that the silence will leave their shoes and backpacks on the floor for all of eternity. I am exhausted, but what if, in my absence, someone discovers my irrelevance?
In reading and remembering the resurrection stories this week, mostly in desperation, I discover that I am in good company. It turns out that many early disciples had trouble with resurrection.
Like Mary and the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I do not recognize the risen Jesus. My eyes have been so imprinted with the destruction that I cannot see what is new. I know that the pain will have some meaning when it is over, but I cling to it in the present because I am afraid of having nothing instead. Because the story is not over yet, I do not know how to talk about what is happening. Until Jesus rises.
Like Thomas, I refuse to believe. Even though Jesus has carried me before, I am afraid the He won’t be able to lift me again. I am heavier than last time. The mess is less manageable. What if I hope and He does not show up when I think He will or should? It would be easier not to hope at all than deal with my disappointment. I do not know how to wait long enough. It hurts too much. Until Jesus rises.
Like Peter, I’m so stunned by the risen Jesus that I put my clothes (back) on to jump into the sea. I am ashamed about what I have done and what I have failed to do. Part of me does not even want the resurrection to be real, so that I can at least have the self-righteous satisfaction of being right about my unbelief. I have only my old practices to makes sense of a new reality, so I do ridiculous things. Until Jesus rises.
He rises. And He shows up to teach them, to open their eyes, to let them touch him. He makes breakfast and gives them the chance to say again how much they love Him after they have failed Him.
Maybe I am not supposed to know how to rise because it is Jesus’ work. Could it be that I need to stop doing and let Him work resurrection in and around me? The dividing line between the crucifixion and the resurrection is a tiny sliver of passing over the burdens. Maybe this effort it takes to let Jesus work in me is how His burden is lighter than carrying it myself? Maybe this is the work of the resurrection that stretches me over fifty days and a lifetime?
I am blind and doubtful. Ashamed and afraid of being the kind of ridiculous I already am, I don’t know how to rise. Come, Jesus, and find me here. Open my eyes and let me feel your touch. Ask me again if I love you, and help me to tell you that I do. Work your resurrection in me, and let me rise, again. Amen.
For the first time, I found this year’s lent and easter season evoked no emotion of celebration at all in me. It felt strange. Yet, as I contemplated on this I realized, became aware of the fact, that my life lately has been a continual cycle of lent and easter, dying and being resurrected. Buddhism, and many other religions, talk about dying before you die. Through that death comes life, comes resurrection.
It has become so much a part of my everyday life of growing that it is now known at deep and intimate levels in me. The dying to my false self, my ego-driven self, gives way to my life rediscovered and filled more and more with light – the light of God already in me, and in each one of us, revealed and uncovered as what was dark transmutes to light.
I find this cycle, if I just allow it to happen, (knowing that I basically do nothing in the process but allow it to happen) and realizing that God does do all the heavy lifting, brings me into a deeper knowing and awareness of God’s presence within and without. That is the rising. The being resurrected by God.
Sometimes I don’t want resurrection because I’m comfortable in the pile I’ve created. Yet, with each death and resurrection my union, my oneness with God, with others, with the world, the universe and all of creation seems to increase in its awareness.
I lay in a hospital bed two years ago, after life saving surgery from cancer, and I asked God what was next. God said, “Get to know me.” I said, “But I do know you.” To which I distinctly heard within my being, “No. Get to KNOW me.”
Thus began my journey, through silence, meditation and spiritual direction, my journey into dying before I die. My journey to the depths and my rising from within and my getting to truly KNOW God as I have never known God before.
I have rediscovered my life. As I got to know the real me, my true self, I got to know God even more.
I am truly blessed as I have discovered dying and rising and the celebration of both. A continual cycle of union with God.
#meditation #contemplation #lettinggo #MayTheyBeOneAsWeAreOne
Thanks for your awesome article. I enjoy your writing and insights Leah.
Thanks for sharing, William. I’m looking forward to a time when I am cooperating easily with this cycle of dying and rising. I’m glad to know that your experience has brought you there. You give me hope!
Deeply moved by this reflection Leah. In my own preaching this weekend I found myself less focused on the resurrection than on the doubt and fear displayed by those who knew Jesus and were left in a desperate state after his death, even up to Easter morning. We are conditioned by our culture to seek the happy ending and we are forced to jump too quickly to the empty tomb without first understanding the depth of grieving that must be experienced before the resurrection is even a possibility.
I’m so tempted to jump too quickly, to pretend I don’t need to grieve. I’m not seasoned enough, I think. Grateful for you, Fr. Jon.