It’s Holy Week and, like years past, I’m stuck on resurrection. I’m dwelling on the areas of my life that feel so dead, so very much over, so that door has been slammed shut. And the resurrection they preach of on Sunday mornings means new life and second chances and healing and restoration in those areas of life, right? Resurrection means life conquers death and God reigns, hallelujah, amen. Resurrection means it’s all going to be okay. Right? Right??
I always feel a little guilty, come Easter. I’m always reminded that God brings LIFE and He LIVES and we should never forget He can BRING LIFE TO THE DEAD. Every year I feel bad about the areas in my life where I, resignedly, claimed death. Endings. Donezo. El fin. Areas of life I had given up on, places I knew would never be fixed, relationships and people that would never be part of my future. And Easter Sunday would come and I’d think, okay, okay – maybe there’s life still to be had here. Maybe these bones will come to life. Maybe God will breath new life into these ashes.
But what if resurrection is something else? What if some of those doors that slammed shut stay shut? What if some of those broken relationships remain broken? What if God meets us in the death and destruction, sits down with us in the ashes – and instead of breathing new life, He simply points the way out.
I had to take the first half of the semester off, for health reasons, and last week I started a quick, half-semester class before my seminary shuts its physical doors (sending me into the wavelengths of online education). It was a hard decision for me – a constant yes yes yes person, a more more more! personality – to say no. No, I can’t do this right now. No, my body can’t handle it. And I was upset and bitter and hurting in lots of ways I’m still unpacking. My first night back in class we talked about healing and redemption and I did my best to not roll my eyes because, healing? You want to talk about physical healing? Let’s talk thyroid diseases and adult acne and insomnia and the 72 other things that have gone wrong with my body lately. I’m so tired of being told our God is a Healer.
But then my professor mentioned healing doesn’t always mean health. An amputee isn’t going to suddenly grow back a limb. Sometimes the cancer doesn’t go away. The marriage doesn’t become healthy again, it ends. Sometimes, healing isn’t health. Sometimes, healing simply brings wholeness.
What if resurrection isn’t the dead brought to life? What if it’s not a broken relationship restored or an illness cured or a dream that seemingly ended come true? What if all those things stay dead? What if ashes stay ashes and dust stays dust? What if God meets us there, in that pain and suffering and wondering and confusion, and instead of bringing something dead to life – does something we could never have imagined? What if instead of bringing an old body back to life, an old dream back to possibility, an old relationship back to restoration – the Creator steps in and brings about something else entirely?
The promise of resurrection isn’t that every single thing will come back to life. It’s not that every single thing will be resurrected and made whole and new, exactly as it was before. What if we’re missing the whole point? What if Jesus didn’t simply come back from the dead – what if he did what no one imaginable possible in that situation?
And, of course, it’s not to say that resurrection doesn’t mean the dead being brought back to life. That’s part of it, too. Sometimes that’s exactly what we get: relationships mended, parts of our lives we thought were gone return to us, things we said goodbye to we happily receive again. I’m not saying that never happens. I’m just saying the promise of resurrection is bigger.
Since starting seminary, I constantly get asked what’s the biggest take away, the biggest lesson I’ve learned. I always tell people, to their dismay, it’s how little we truly know about God. How much of the Bible is gray areas, how confusingly wonderful our Creator is. There are theories upon theories to understand how creation went down – we’ll never know. The hierarchy of the Trinity (if there is one?!)??? – wow. What did Jesus really mean in this parable? Or with that sentence? Or in this verse, applying that context, while knowing this about the author and that about Greek means WHAT. What?! There’s so much, truly, up in the air.
And I love that. I’m the kind of person who has more faith in God, not less, because of the lack of answers. The fewer concrete things I find out about our faith, the more I fall in love with it. But that’s a story for another time.
In the same way, I’ve found that God loves to show up in ways we never, ever expect and we’ll never, ever understand. The world wanted a king, we got a baby. The people eagerly expected a political revolution and they got a death sentence. And yet, instead of yelling, “I’LL COME BACK TO LIFE”, He said, “Wait three days”.
He says, wait – and I’ll do something you can’t imagine.
Wait, and I’ll show up in this pain in a way you won’t be able to recognize – until I say your name.
Wait, and I promise there will be some good to be found, somewhere in the middle of this mess.
Wait. I’ll be there. I promise. Even if it’s in ways you don’t expect.