Have you ever asked yourself if you are (practicing resurrection)? It’s a useful question to consider when life brings change, disappointment, or grief. Do we respond to the unexpected by assuming the worst, or do we insist that God is undoubtedly up to something new and lively, even if we can’t see it yet?
Jesus’ story about the widow seeking justice gets to the heart of that question. She knew she was going to get justice, eventually, and she just kept on pestering that judge until she did.
An older tennis-playing friend of mine fell recently and broke her hip. When I called her in the hospital, she told me the pain was an unpleasant challenge, and her life had been summarily interrupted, but life happens.
When the Israelites are wandering in the desert, complaining about the food and how hard life is, how does Moses respond? He reminds them (and probably himself) that God is still on the road with them, and that their job is to ‘choose life’ rather than death. Moses encourages them to remember that the word (of life) is already at work within their hearts and on their lips.
The word of life was planted in each of us before we breathed this planet’s air, and it was deeply watered at baptism. How’s it doing? Through the ages God’s people have found that the water and fertilizer and pruning it needs to thrive have a lot to do with our expectations. What we feed expands; what we encourage, grows. Most of us have experienced the reality that children who are encouraged and expected to thrive, do, and those who don’t have encouragers and examples in their lives struggle harder to find hopeful direction in life. We can offer the word of life to the despairing—and discover that it becomes greener and livelier within us.
What do you hope for in the face of your latest disappointment or grief? What new opportunity might this expose? Sometimes (often!) we need the solidarity of community to help us see those possibilities, and the ways that apparent losses become manure for greener and more productive trees in the future. The summer wildfires in the West used to do this quite predictably, until we started meddling. We acted as though fire was the worst thing possible, and we made the inevitable fires a lot worse because the regular cleansing of brush and undergrowth was hindered for decades.
We may not always think about Lent that way, but clearing out the rank growth is a lot of what that season is meant to do. When we do it regularly, it’s easier to recognize the need in all seasons. And when we can see the majesty of the trees, absent the press of undergrowth, maybe we can remember where they come from. That’s what Jesus said in the garden, “your will, not mine, be done”—I trust that you, God, are always bringing life, even if it all looks like death right now. Even his abjectly despairing cry on the cross, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” affirms his connection with the bringer of all life.
The next time death or grief confronts you, pause and give thanks for the life that was—for the gifts received and the life shared. It is thanksgiving that reinvigorates the life within us all, and prompts hope and expectation for the new life already aborning. Give thanks for what is, for what has been, for what is yet to be—and know that God is still at work. Always and in all ways.