First, I’m a rebel. I don’t see things the way they are seen by mainstream anything. And it’s no different today. I sit here realizing I have put exactly zero thought into Lent. It’s Easter Eve and I am just now considering the Resurrection that many have been considering for the last forty days.
Why the apathy? Why my indifference to such a significant event? Well, because when I did spend more time celebrating and considering, it didn’t transform me on a soul level. It filled me up, temporarily, but on some level, it kept me needy. It kept me focused outside of myself. It reminded me of the theology I was believing that told me that I was a mere worm, that there was nothing what-so-ever, good in me. It left me manic depressed and desperately searching for answers that seemed nowhere to be found by those that I counted on to know.
And so today, for the first time in some years, at the Costco gas station, while filling my tank, I considered for a moment… what does the resurrection of Christ mean to me? And suddenly, something very meaningful came to me and I will make an attempt to put those mind pictures into words, for myself and for anyone who may have been down a similar path or has no path or who is searching for their path, and has come to today, having spent the last forty days doing anything but thinking about Easter, like me.
I’ve learned much more about Christ outside the church than I did inside. Wait, um…. That’s not exactly true. Mostly what I did inside the church was learn, fill my head with knowledge and have weekly experiences that felt good, wonderful, actually. So, to be more specific, my experience outside the church has transformed me more than the learning I did while inside of it. It has made me whole again.
You see, one day, back ten years ago, I don’t recall the year b/c what happened, came and stole my mind like a stranger wearing a black mask, breaking silently and then violently, into my house, in the middle of a moonless night. I am still working to recover my memory from the day my ground was torn from beneath my wobbly feet, sending me into a darkness where up, down, sideways ... any sense of direction, what-so-ever, was utterly undetectable and at the same time, was the catalyst for me to find the path that would lead me home, that would bring me to the path I had been searching for all along.
It all began that cold and rainy, gray December day when I got the call. My father-in-law had had a massive heart attack, and he didn’t make it. Six short weeks later, in the middle of the night, my cell phone rang, and as my mind reassured me that “Thank God, it can’t be anything bad," because God would never let anything bad happen, right now, while I’m still completely raw from the sudden death of one who had been a source of stability for me. On the other end, my sister, “Maria, wake up, it’s Dad. He might not make it.” My body began to quake uncontrollably, as this incomprehensible reality began to sink into my being. My dad might die. I just saw him six short weeks ago, sobbing over my father-in-law’s casket, trusting him with a knowing, a deep inner knowing, that he had my back and he’d be there for me. He has never been able to live on his own or speak an intelligible sentence again.
Two years later, we lost our home and went bankrupt. The utter chaos within me and my husband that followed was worthy of an admittance to a mental ward. Somehow we were left trying to make sense of a life that was unrecognizable, that had no stability, consistency, or friends left in it. No one could seem to understand how to hold space for these struggling humans. It was as though the human race was at a loss for what to do with two able-bodied grown humans that just couldn’t get it together on our own. We were two Humpty Dumpties and it seemed as though there was no putting us back together again. We were torn apart, at our bottom and we needed help!
I remember the day I went out into the woods and ripped a nasty one to God. I cussed him out in a big way. I told him that one of us was going to end up dead and where the hell was He? Well, I could say he listened, but honestly, what the heck do I know?
Miraculously, soon after that cuss session with God, one Sunday morning a friend called. If you knew us at that time, you’d know what a miracle that was. NO ONE EVER CALLED US ON SUNDAY MORNING!! We were at church, always!
But, she did, and I answered, and I was a mess. I never had really opened up to anyone about the reality of our life. But, as God, or the Universe, or …. Would have it, I told her we were in trouble. She happened to know of a therapist that had helped her immensely (thank you, Garth!!).
I’ll spare you the details and get back to the resurrection thoughts from Costco. As I have walked this journey, of healing and learning to put myself back together again, I have changed my experience of the message of Christ.
I believe he came to show us how to walk the journey. I’m not going to quote Scripture, but I’d like to share, for myself, mostly, but for you too, if you might be encouraged. You see, I had to die a painful death, like Jesus, who said, “Follow me.” Before this death, I trusted in the church, my Pastor, our dads, our sense of security and satisfaction in life. My belief in my salvation. I trusted in our savings account. I trusted in knowing there would be food on our table. I trusted in our community. I trusted in the kid's school and education. I had un-learned how listen to my inner knowing because I was taught that nothing good existed inside of me. I trusted in all things outside of myself.
When every single thing in my life, that I trusted in, went away, there was nothing left. I couldn’t find the ground on which to place my feet. I had nothing left to trust in. I couldn’t even trust myself not to fall apart at the most unpredictable moment. I couldn’t trust that I could tell anyone how I really was because what I found was that, my mom and my pastor were the only humans that might stick around to talk to me again. I was chaos incarnated. And I don’t blame anyone who couldn’t hold space for me.
As I began to find answers, and heal my deep shame, through an angel named John, and my therapist, I began to have new eyes. Through all of this loss, and never knowing if I could feed the kids, not being able to take them to the dentist or doctor for years, being terrified when they needed a pair of shoes…through it all, I began to find out who I was. I met “God” in my darkness and I learned to just be there, in it, and still be ok.
I learned that we can only ascend as far as we have descended and that the descent is immensely purposeful. I began to see the perfection in the pain. I learned that all suffering is necessary to move beyond the suffering. I learned that death is necessary for and always precedes Life. I began to know that I came to live, not to merely exist and that this death, and this descent were a necessary preemption to my resurrection and I began to thank Jesus for showing this to us. I forgave myself for having seen it in a way that was so destructive for me.
And now. I have found my purpose through all of my pain. I sit in an office every day, with people in their own pain, trying to make sense of it all. And I can sit with them. I can create a safe place for them to release their deepest, darkest secrets, and heal their pain, their shame, move beyond their fears and I am thankful every day for my death, and my descent and my resurrection. Thank you Jesus, for being the way shower for me, for us, for humanity! We are here to die to our illusions, to the ways we trick and deceive ourselves, to the belief in our own victim-hood, our powerlessness, our worthlessness, our unlovable-ness. None of it is real. We are each an expression of the image of Creator that no other human ever has or ever will express in the same way again! Our lives are purposeful and our pain has a way of waking us up to who we truly are!
And in order to come home to the truth of who we are, the expression of Life that we are, we must die, and descend, and resurrect in newness of belief, release all those beliefs that don’t serve our highest good. As Richard Rohr says, "Death is a fearsome thing. It means letting go, giving up security and safety, saying goodbye to the familiar." Jesus showed us how. Now we are called to the courage to do the work!! This is what he meant when he said, “Deny yourself, and take up your cross and follow me.” Let it all go, surrender to what’s real. Today is a good day to die. Remember to look ahead, you are resurrecting into a new experience of You, of Life!! The Light is beckoning you into It.
As Leonard Cohen says, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the Light gets in.”