What I [Re-]Learned This Lent: No Resurrection Without a Death
With saturation ads for marshmallow birds and chocolate bunnies and pastel everything, I am impressed that Easter remains hidden in plain view. Sure, egg hunts are fun–I try not to rain on picnics. Kids need a run and a laugh, and God knows we could all use a lot more lightness and play these days.
The irony of Easter in marketing is that would skip the hard stuff to get to the sweet stuff—chocolate and marshmallows taste better than spinach, at least to a point. Celebrations are so good for us because life can be pretty hard. Psalm Twenty-Two for Good Friday acknowledges deep pain and overwhelming injustice and yet still feels compelled to praise God for the gift of life, even in the midst of suffering and death. Jesus quoted from this psalm even while being crucified.
Somehow, it is possible to be free from suffering, even in the midst of suffering.
At the beginning of Lent, I shared the hard news that my close friend took his own life before the New Year. One more year of difficulty felt like one too many for him, even though he knew he had friends and family to turn to. Now, every time I drive by his house on the way to work, I remember that I might have just dropped in, but now that is never to be. How does that hard experience open me to other opportunities?
Friendship has to be chosen, again and again. It requires faithfulness and dedication and honesty with ourselves as much as each other…and none of these will ever measure up to some objective standard. It always means choosing one imperfect good over another, and there will almost always be a ‘fly in the ointment’ that keeps that relationship from being all that it could be. Maybe it’s a hard experience from your childhood that triggers you to re-live and react. Maybe it’s the habit of distraction or busyness or treating everything that happens as an emergency.
Maybe…what appears as a crisis can be flipped into a moment of freedom. This week my friend’s amp died right before he needed it, but I could lend him mine just in time, which meant we got to meet up and talk over tea. We claimed the privilege of taking that time for good, not just problem solving and moving on to the next problem. We conspired in grace to be free together for one hour. That little Easter joy would not have happened without him naming that little Good Friday of frustration.
This Lent taught me that my winter collapse into exhaustion had hidden in it the gift of reordering my priorities to include Sabbath rest, recreation and renewal for myself, my family, and then my work. What I did not want surprisingly opened the possibility for more of what I do want in life.
Jesus’ resurrection was not resuscitation or an escape.
There is no way around death, only through it.
The next time you hit a wall, an impasse or a seemingly intractable conflict, how might you shift into that third way, beyond either-or thinking, into a creative possibility that might surprise you? Nothing is wasted. Life’s lessons keep repeating and recycling until they are made use of. Blessings in your reimagining this Easter season. May we be refuges for one another.