To be completely honest, I wasn’t really feeling Easter this year. Perhaps it was just the busyness of the season (after all, I do work in a church office) or maybe it was more that I hadn’t really given myself time to prepare my heart and mind to embrace the joy of the resurrection. Whatever the case was, I have been struggling to figure out why instead of hope, I felt dread. Then I read this:
Death and resurrection. It’s the impossibility around which every other impossibility of the Christian faith orbits. Baptism declares that God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life, so if you want in on God’s business, you better prepare to follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world – including those of your own heart – because that’s where God works, that’s where God gardens.
Baptism reminds us there’s no ladder to holiness to climb, no self-improvement plan to follow. It’s just death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day, as God reaches down into our deepest graves and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, wrests us from our pride, our apathy, our fear, our prejudice, our anger, our hurt, and our despair.
Most days I’m not sure which is harder for me to believe: that God reanimated the brain functions of a man three days dead, or that God can bring back to life all the beautiful things we have killed. Both seem pretty unlikely to me.
(Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans)
And that’s when it hit me: Death and resurrection. Death then resurrection. Death first, then new life. So often, I just want to jump ahead to the happy ending, to celebrate the joys of new life without first recognizing the need for death. Heck, even as tough as growing pains are, I would much rather choose the “self-improvement plan” or the “ladder to holiness”, but I am reminded today that this is actually not how God works. No, instead I must learn and relearn this process of “death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day.”
Up until now, while I have recognized areas where I need to grow or tried to be aware of bad habits and made an effort to counteract them, I realize now that no matter how hard I try, these problems never actually go away. Deep within my soul are layers and layers of cynicism, doubt, and insecurity. For too long, I tried to get past these issues only to find that I’ve actually just buried them further and further down. Now I see that I must “follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world – including those [in my] own heart – because that’s where God works, that’s where God gardens.”
In a recent blog post, Sarah Bessey also writes about gardening and the process of rooting out an old rotten tree stump in her front yard. Finding spiritual comparison in her own life, she says, “The restoration of the dirt itself has to happen before the fruit can be borne.”
My soul is longing for such restoration, for death and resurrection. As much as I want to skip over the death part and just celebrate the resurrection, I understand now that new life can and will not come unless I first go through this process of death. I must let God root out the cynicism, the doubt, the insecurity and everything else that keeps me from following him and begin the process of restoring the soil of my soul.
Only then may I experience the true meaning of resurrection.