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Life has taken many a twisted turn since the beginning of my bout with a variety of major health issues, particularly in the past two years.
Frustration, a degree of desperation, fear...terrible fear...and an assault on what now appeared to be quite fragile faith. Unknowingly, I had entered the dark night of the soul. It was not a conscious choice, but it surely was one that dramatically changed my life.
For too many of us, Easter means family gatherings, Easter egg hunts, perhaps even a day released from work. We control the time, place and reason for the togetherness. None of this is true. It’s simply our way of avoiding the reality of Resurrection. It is a great way to avoid facing the fact that none of us wishes to rise from the dead, really rise and shine and give God the glory.
Easter is the time when rising means acknowledging our own fragility, our own darknesses. What has happened to our comprehension of that frailty?
I recall writing a column that urged folks to arise to fearlessness and here I was steeped in the tea of my own brewing. It was my very long Lenten journey. It was the trip I was called to take so that I might truly understand Easter’s message.
I wrote about the darkness of ill health and thought I understood what Easter meant...and was totally off key. Easter is all about embracing the actuality that I am not in control of anything. Easter’s resurrection gives credence to the fact that I am afraid, truly afraid of the dark. I can’t even whistle a happy tune, pretending that I am not fearful. Most of all, Easter’s rising brings me to an intense comprehension that life lives in the darkness we all want to avoid.
Most assuredly, I did not want to rise from death-dealing fear. It is so much easier to sit in the fear, live and die in the fear, without confronting the wonder of rising within it.
Perhaps this makes little sense to us. Perhaps, we are so steeped in a lack of resurrectional living that we can’t even come to a slight understanding of what it means to be Easter people. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that Easter commands and demands that people face their fears. It calls us to acknowledge the darknesses we dread. It reminds us that avoidance and denial will only delay the process and progress we seek.
The only way that I have been able to taste resurrection is to taste the death throes in which it lives. For many weeks I have been abiding in a land that was not my choice. I wondered if I had any faith at all. I questioned the Easter promises of true life, of rising from the depth of all my dreads. I begged God to remember that God hears the cry of the poor and I was bereft of riches. I felt there was no answer...no Easter to contemplate.
Philosophically, and even spiritually, I called to mind the darkness of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and beyond. I remembered the loneliness of that journey, traveled among so many and experienced alone. I remembered the many falls along the way, the pain of carrying a cross that was inevitable, the spent voice begging for reprieve. Nothing helped. Only the darkness remained.
I tried to distract my self from those negativities, to no avail. In my attempt, I discovered that the majority of people who think about Easter consider Easter bunnies and egg hunts. How would Easter and resurrection affect folks who remain in a chocolate bunny world where the biggest question asked is do we eat the ears first or munch on the feet?
Easter and resurrection provided a response. Even the pagans of old gave significance to the food. Easter rising entails a nurture we cannot imagine. We can only live in and through the darkness to experience resurrection’s light. All the eggs are reminders of life.
We can choose to live on a superficial level, talking about cabbages and kings, noting the changes in weather, new clothes, what to have for dinner. We can do that quite successfully, and miss the magnificence of rising out of dread, fear, emotionless, yet filled with emotion.
So, I write, not to negate the column I had composed, one that demanded that we dispense with fear, but to affirm that we cannot dispose of anything we have not already acknowledged.
Easter’s rising, for me, became the opportunity to say that I am afraid. I want to get well, but I don’t want the process it commands. I want to rise from dread. I want so much to do whatever God desires and to do it in memory of the divinity that awaits our acceptance of rising.
I want to get up, to rise, to emerge from the fearful darkness and know that Easter is here. Resurrection is available. Deep within me, I know it is more than possible. It is what Easter is all about. Rising is not denial of falling. Rising is acknowledgement that everything is possible with God, but God is not going to act for us. God is rising in us, as we are, with all our bumps, bruises, and bad feelings.
Easter means that I will look about for rising and find that there is no one to see but Jesus. As he has brought us life through death, so are we to bring life to those living in the dark halls of dread and despair.
Be not afraid. The words do fall lightly from the tongue. Until they are consumed with belief and trust, Easter becomes another day in the course of the year. Let’s not lose the opportunity to rejoice in life because we dread the darkness. Let’s enter the darkness and find that we are whole, lively, and filled with Easter joy.