Monday, March 28, 2016

Sometimes we Have to Stare into the Tomb

I’m starting to wish I had started this blog under a pseudonym … a way to write, to put things out in the world without being directly associated with my identity, without involving my friends and relatives, without being linked to my current or future vocation.

I long for an opportunity to process, in writing, the things with which I struggle and how I reconcile these things (or don’t) with my life, faith, and vocation. And yet I understand, more clearly every passing moment, the risks of doing so in a public forum.

Yet I made the choice to start this blog in a public forum with a specific purpose: to be a real person, flesh and blood, struggling in and with the realities of how we live in the “now but not yet” of this life, acknowledging the moments in the depths and still standing in the brilliant hope of the resurrection. And I don’t think you can do that from a place of hiding.

So here I am talking to myself while I write about why I do this, convincing myself it’s not too risky to do again. It has been another six-month silence. Yet, my soul screams out for the transparency this sharing brings.

So here it is … it has been a dark Holy Week. A couple of individuals I started following in the last year on social media (@rozellahw and @crazypastor) have been examining the despair that remains even after Easter, the tension of proclaiming “He Is Risen, Indeed, Hallelujah!” while living in the reality of a world still so broken.

How do we stand in the light of the resurrection, participating in God’s work in the world, while still fighting the sinking despair that comes when you stare into brokenness inherent in a world this side of heaven?

It has been refreshing to have this tension named this week. I think sometimes the hard part of believing in a God who loves us and reconciled the world to Godself through Christ's death and resurrection is staring into that brilliance and then feeling the heavy blanket of continuing to live in the broken world. The hard part is living in the heaviness of being called to love that world, called to love even those who would scorn, mock, and crucify us, and, in fact, our very Lord and Savior.

So let’s name it … recently I found myself in the hard place where I go from the self-starting, perfectionistic, internally motivated type-A personality to the person who has to talk herself out of getting out of bed and finds an excuse to recline at the earliest possible moment.

It all started the week of Spring Break. I could feel the heaviness coming on. I had a soul-draining February with weekends filled with a training event and leading a synod event and an overnight confirmation retreat. I loved doing all these things. Yet when they were done, I had emptied myself so completely I couldn’t rebound. While our family had planned a fun couple of nights away at a cabin to play and explore, I found myself sleeping away much of our time.

The following week I spent three days sick with influenza. I was sure my fatigue the week before had been my body fighting this oncoming illness.

Enter Holy Week. As I stared down the barrel of a number of events to prepare for in April, I was living in the midst of a week that while very busy in the life of the church doesn’t require a lot of me other than showing up. The confirmation ministry for which I am responsible has spent the last five weeks attending Lenten worship and meeting in small groups to discuss our weekly dramas so I haven’t had to plan and prepare and also haven’t had the chance to teach, which drives me and brings me joy.

And while there was plenty of planning and preparing for things in April, I wanted to do none of it, or get out of bed for that matter – so much so that for two days this week I put off getting out of bed so long I didn’t have time to get ready and ended up working from home. And there’s nothing so wrong with working from home, but the guilt of not choosing to get out of bed and not showing up during a busy week in the life of the church weighed heavily on me. And the guiltier I felt the harder it was to snap out of it all.

So, I, too, find myself short of heaven.

And aren’t we all?

As we struggle with the evil that remains in this world – hatred, racism, persecution, xenophobia, poverty, war, homophobia, income inequality, misogyny, etc. – isn’t it clear that while “It is finished” for eternity, for today we continue to struggle against all that would pull us into the depths, all that would steal the beauty of our days, of our very lives?

And I am reminded of another of my favorites to follow on social media (@momastery) who speaks of these days. She speaks of being the kind of person who feels the energy of the world and seeks to channel her response into active engagement in God’s reconciling work in the world.

But, she is the first to admit that some days the waves consume and she has to be gentle with herself. Sometimes staring in to the brilliance of the resurrection and reconciliation while trying to throw off the oppressive weight of the world around us takes more than we have.

And this is good news for me.

I may think I should be capable of all this.

I may think the sheer power of my will should be enough.

But the reality so vibrantly presented in the death and resurrection of Christ –
Whether you shout, “He is Risen, Indeed. Hallelujah!” with confidence surrounded by plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies or whisper it defiantly in the face of deep despair and sorrow in the evil of this world –

It’s not on us.

God’s got this.

God always has and God always will.

This is the reality presented in the story of God’s people in the Old Testament – trying and failing, trying and failing, trying and failing all leading up to the introduction of Jesus – the messiah who would take the sin of the world upon himself.

The more I burden myself with the responsibility of “snapping out of it” to embrace the life God has prepared and invited me into, the less I understand resurrection.

The more I trust the God I believe in has the power to reconcile ALL of creation to Godself, the more I open myself to the opportunity for my own resurrection – from all that would pull me into despair.

I don’t have to resurrect myself.

And releasing my death grip on that reality opens the door for God to begin God’s reconciling work in my heart and my life once again.

He is risen indeed.

Clinging to the shoulders of Christ, I, too rise.

Hallelujah.