I spent a good deal of my life trying to create a Hallmark, Anne of Green Gables, kind of life. Holidays used to be the epitome of that life. The beautifully set table, the laughter, the wine, the gorgeous food, and all happy-happy-perfect-perfect.
In writing that quick summary, I also recognize there was a dark side to most holidays, even when life was at its most picture-perfect time, the real stuff still crept in. An argument with a relative, an unannounced guest, not enough money to buy the right food, or enough time to make it all perfect. Somehow I found ways to blame those things on flukes, outside circumstances I had no control over, but insignificant enough to sweep under the rug and press on. I had a deeply rooted, and faith filled belief that Jesus, being alive and all, wanted me to have the life I’ve always wanted, and of course wanted everything to be perfect, just the way I wanted it to be.
There was a time, not too long ago, when I worked damn hard to hold life together and make it as normal as I possibly could. Norman Rockwell normal. Anne of Green Gables normal. Little House on the Prairie normal. The Cosby Show normal.
My childhood was marked by alcoholism, drug-addiction, divorce, different levels of poverty and financial stress. Sometimes there was more than enough, something there wasn’t. Living in the instability of that gave me an insatiable craving for stability.
When I grew up I set out to do everything the right way, whatever the hell that means. Eventually, I had everything I thought I wanted: a cute house in the suburbs, a mini-van, a yard to take care of, two beautiful kids, a good church, opportunities to do ministry. I was writing my novels. I was living the dream.
Then, the real stuff of life happened, and most of what I had by doing the right things got swept up in a tsunami and I was left sitting in a dust pile staring up at the sky absolutely stunned. And furious.
The tsunami changed me. Inside and out. It leveled me flat. It more than knocked the air out of me. It completely overhauled my view of life and stability and trust and hope and …. resurrection.
For over a year I wondered if the Christian faith was all a hoax. Joke’s on me, I thought. I put all my hopes and dreams in this faith and came out on the wrong side. God doesn’t love me, after all.
Now I see, My Little House on the Prairie life was a pretend life. It was mostly something I was trying to construct that had no basis in anything authentically real. People are not actors on a stage for my sake. They are human beings living their lives, and we make horrible mistakes in the middle of it. We just do. Our hope in life should not be to recreate a television show from the 1980’s.
Ah, but most of the time, I’d prefer the television show. It’s a whole lot cleaner and easier to manage. There are plenty of days when I wake up and sigh from the magnitude of it all and wonder at all the wreckage and wish I could transport myself to Anne of Green Gables and sit on the porch and suffer no more.
Just yesterday on the way to church one of my kids got mad about something and I was absolutely powerless to fix it, absolutely powerless to make it better. I just had to accept it, which made an entire sermon on resurrection difficult to bear. What’s so great about the resurrection when life still hurts? What’s so helpful about the resurrection when I can’t make the pain go away, when disappointment is still disappointment?
I want resurrection to mean it’s all going to be better and no one is going to feel the sting of hurt anymore. I want Jesus to swoop down and fix the drama so all the plot points wrap up perfectly and there is no more tension. I want it to feel good, damnit!
But alas, that is not the point of resurrection.
When Jesus was headed off into heaven, scars intact, he said something that keeps me in the Christian faith. “Lo, I am with you always… even to the very end of the age.”
During my darkest days, when I wasn’t sure if my faith would make it, I still liked Jesus. I couldn’t stop talking to him. Sometimes I’d feel his presence. Mostly I didn’t. I just knew, in the weirdest way we can know something, that Jesus was there. With me. In the whole of it. Sitting right next to me in my dust pile, unafraid and present.
The hope that held me in my darkest hour is a hope that only exists because Jesus got up out of the tomb and came back to life. From Death to Life. Present with me in the year 2017. Radically strange and so beautiful I can hardly describe it. I am not alone. God is with me.
The other thing I get from resurrection is this: Behold I am making all things new. The old order has passed away …
With Jesus coming back to life, overcoming even death, God changed the rules. Jesus and the ways of Jesus become available to any of us, if we so dare.
Your life can fall apart and God will help you and stay with you in it. Over time, with grace and love, God will bring you to restoration.
The powerful and rich and wealthy don’t hold this new world together. God does, and in this new order, the voiceless find their voices. The servants have a place. (If you’ve ever been a servant, if you’ve been part of the working class in any place, at any time, this is kind of a nice thing to hear.)
You don’t have to be trained or go to the best theological schools to find purpose and goodness in the spiritual life. You can be ordinary and still pray. You can be the most simple of simpletons and still find God in the rubble of this earth. You don’t have to be special. (What a relief.)
Trials and tribulations don’t mean you’ve pissed God off and God is mad at you. God is near to the brokenhearted and the hurting. So if you’re in the thick of it, look around. Grace will sustain you.
There is an unlimited supply of forgiveness in this new order. My yuck and your yuck are not the final word.
Relationships are some of the messiest things on this planet, and in the new order, Jesus works with us to restore them. Not in a day, but Over Time … The restoration and the healing we need in our relationships are not just up to us. God helps us fix our shit and make amends.
In this new order, God offers you a small plot on this earth, whether you’ve purchased it or not, to wrangle out life and redemption. God will work with you in this radical redemption. God doesn’t take it over. You get to have a say in it.
God doesn’t just wave the magic wand … that’s not how it works, but we are given a place, a plot on this earth, at this time in history to redeem, if we want it.
Resurrection doesn’t mean it’s all better. It means that Jesus is the first born of something new, and Jesus is the one who leads us into this whole new way.
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