Thursday, April 12, 2012

'Tis the Season




Happy Easter! 

I hope and pray you are doing well and that you didn't think I forgot about you! 

You see, while I began this blog with a clear-cut idea of how often I would write, I have found that, like so many things in life, trying to juggle my intentions with the realities of my daily life isn't always easy.  As a result, this fun little bloggy adventure doesn't always get posted as often as I'd intended.  But because of things I've learned through writing it,  I have to remind myself that that's OK. 

At any rate, I'm back now.

And I'm ready to talk about Easter. 

One of the things I love about living a life of spiritual awareness (or trying to be aware!), is that we are very often called to be counter-cultural on many things.   And for Christians, Easter and Christmas are, I think, two of the best times of the year we can "go against the grain" so to speak.

How? 

Well, for instance, by saying things like "Happy Easter" on the Thursday after Easter Sunday when in many people's minds Easter is already over.  The stores have ripped all the little bunnies and chicks off the shelves and are either reducing their prices dramatically or packing them away for next year.  "On to other things!" they seem to be ordering us.  But not on the church calendar!  Easter is a season that lasts for 50 days!  Did you realize that's 10 days LONGER than Lent?  There's still plenty of time to send out cards!

Isn't that amazing??

So, if you are feeling joyful this season, by all means continue!  Despite what most of the world is trying to tell you, Easter is NOT over!

But...what if you're not feeling Easter Joy right now? 

Well, as you may have already guessed, that's OK, too.  Perhaps you just need a little nudge to look at this season another way.   And guess what?   I have a little story that's stuck with me this season that may help.  So even if you don't feel like an Easter celebration right now, maybe if I share with you how I see it, it will help you see it, too.

This is actually a story I heard second hand, (which just goes to show you how stories of significance can live on through the ages).  It was told to me last year by a woman that was remembering her favorite homily told by a great storyteller and friend of mine,  who was the priest at my former parish. This woman remembered the homily from one of the first weeks when this priest was newly assigned to the parish years before I'd gotten there, but I'm so glad she shared it because it has remained with me every day of this Easter Season.

The story is simple and goes like this:

What was the first thing that Jesus said when he came out of the tomb?


(Ugh.  Easy to beat yourself up here for not having Scripture memorized isn't it?  But then you don't know this priest.  He rarely quotes Scripture chapter and verse.  Instead he always has a punch line). 

So in his version of the story, the first thing Jesus said was this:

Ta-Da!


Of course it's a joke.  It doesn't exactly go along with Jesus' more humble existence, does it?  But I'll tell you what: it sure helps me see those everyday miracles that I'd likely often overlook were it not for our celebration of this most important of seasons.

Because Easter is always about the resurrection.  And not just in Jesus' life, but in our own. We were meant to live the resurrection, too!  

And not just at the time of our death, but now. 

Today. 

Always.

Christians understand the only way to get to the resurrection is through the Cross.  But sometimes I can get too hung up on the Cross itself (pardon the bad pun there, but it's so true!)  Words like "Pascal Mystery" and "The Way of the Cross" sometimes sound just a little too heavy and finite.  They can, in fact, sometimes get me so caught up in the suffering of it all that I forget that there is an end to the suffering! (Of course, I have to be willing to give up the suffering, too!)  While those bigger, mysterious words are certainly valid and true, sometimes I need a little less food for the journey, if you will.  Something simple to chew on...not a full steak platter!   So I look for simpler understandings.  I like the way the 12th Century Indian mystic and poet Akka Mahadevi says it,


"The only way out is through."


And despite the fact that she and I may understand God differently, I *know* what she says is true.  In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think she was talking about the Cross.  Because that's really the mystery of life, isn't it?  How to let pain and suffering be transformed into something better.

During Easter, though, I find it so much easier to let the pain and suffering go... at least long enough to consider that there may be something better on the other side of it all!  And the Easter season (by no accident I'm sure), rests squarely in the midst of Spring, which means the Mystery is right in front of us! God in His patient, quiet way is saying that New Life is always here with us, by surrounding us with nature's silently scream,

"Look around!  New Life is here!"



I see it in the new blooms on my daylillies. (Ta-da!)

In the grass as its beginning to grow, (and already needs mowing). (Ta-da!)

In the cows I see on the hillside licking and cleaning their new calves. (Ta-da!)

In the sun that says not only "Good morning!" but also, "Good night!" as it drifts over the horizon only an hour or two now before I fall asleep. (Ta-da!)

As the birds are slowly arriving chirping, quacking and honking their way across the sky.  (Ta-da!)

Of course, we have to open our eyes to see it, and we have to listen to hear it.   

But it is there.

And once we notice, it can be so comforting!  Because all of nature makes it look so easy.  Things die, transplant, or silently grow offspring in one season only to burst forth with New Life in the next.  They do not resist.  Instead, they seem to be enjoying it!

I can't help but think what my daylillies would look like if they were having panic attacks in the Fall anxious and worried about their imminent death.   Instead, as they brown and wilt and wither they seem to be saying, "Surrender! Don't fight it!  Fear not! We'll be back!" 

And I know they will.

So I've spent years now trying to do the same.  Trusting Someone I cannot see.  Believing in Something I cannot prove.  Hoping in Something bigger than I can imagine.

For Christians it starts at the Cross, of course.  It is there that we witness surrender, trust, belief, hope and love in a strange puzzle--a mystery-- of our faith. 

So I try to make the pieces of my life fit, because  my mind wants to understand what my heart already knows. (So much for the mystery, I guess!)

Still, on some level I think we all have a desire to understand, so let me share with you how in my own personal story I see it.  It goes something like this:

There have been parts of  my life (some dreams, some hopes, some wishes) that I'd envisioned long ago and I was so sure of when they came into my life, I nearly take them for granted.  They appeared the same way they'd been scripted in my own mind so that when they happened I just went, "Well, of course! I wouldn't have had it any other way!"  Things like the fact that the man I married at the carefree age of 22 is still the one person who can make me laugh loud and deep from my belly without even trying.  The fact that we went on to have three healthy children: two boys and a girl who are growing into almost exactly the people I'd thought they would be and more.  The fact that the dog I'd always longed for as a child has finally found his way into my home and heart with a devotion and loyalty to me that humbles me every day.  The fact that I had ambitions to share my journey on a whim through this blog and every few days someone reaches out and says a few words of encouragement or gratitude for something *I* said that touched their heart, or made a difference in their lives somehow.  


Of course there are also wishes, hopes and dreams in my life that I have had to let die.  Sometimes it has been easy, as I've simply lived long enough to outgrow them.  For example, I no longer wish to own a Jeep, or sleep in a four poster bed.  

But other parts have been more difficult to let die.  For example, I still wonder at times if it wouldn't have been better for our family if we'd simply stayed put rather than moving around the country every few years.  But even as I write that I know it's not true.   Would staying in one place have been easier?  I'm fairly certain it would have been.  But better?  That seems far less likely.  We've met too many wonderful people, made too many wonderful friends, and seen too many amazing sites that simply would not have happened without all those moves.  That's not to say that staying in one spot is bad or lacking in growth.  It's just to say, as my dear friend B says about being transplanted,


"We have two choices:  grow deep or grow wide."


Now, if I were living my life out exactly as I'd intended, I would have surely grown deep in one spot. But for me, God had something else in mind.  (Of course, I cannot escape the irony that I would never have met B if both she and I had not been such willing spirits to uproot our lives and relocate!)   She and I both confess that the difficulty is that even as we are uprooted and relocated, we continue to choose to grow deep.  Which is why it hurts so much when we're uprooted! It's also why relocating for me has certainly been a choice that I have done willingly but with great reluctance.  Maybe that sounds like a contradiction, but it is the way I feel every time.  It's how I've  been able to grow in ways I'd never imagined. 

But I think a case could be made for the fact that I've grown wide, too.  (And not just in my waistline!)  Knowing that I have friends spread around the country and homes that I've nurtured there means, I think, that part of me--part of us--remains there.  And certainly part of those people and places remains in us.  Or, as a card my mother-in-law gave us last year so beautifully states,

"Everywhere you go becomes a part of you somehow."


So true.

In reply for all our "uprooting" though, God has taught me over and over and over again that faith pays off!  As my good friend/mentor/soul sister L (another one I wouldn't have met were it not for my willingness to move) taught me in the framed quote she gave me years ago that still sits on my bedside table,

"When you come to the edge of all the light you have known and are about to step out into the darkness, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen:  there will be something to stand on,
or you will be taught how to fly."

So, during this Easter season,  I look at those dreams of my earlier years and I think about how some things I'd dreamed of happened when I wasn't even looking, almost none of them happened on the timeline I had planned, nearly all of them happened in ways (some bigger, some smaller) other than I'd intended, and, of course, some have yet to happen (and so my journey continues there:  waiting, trusting, hoping...).

But all the things that happen in my life and how I respond to them are, in my simple mind, how I understand what it means to "die and rise,"  how I live the Pascal Mystery,  how I "work things out"...by going "through."  


And my lack of control over when, how, or if they happen is how I understand what it means to suffer.  

 
I pray you see the same is true of your life, though your Cross will likely bear different things.

I hope that over the next few days or weeks you take some time to look for those moments of your life when God came to you disguised as Opportunity and Choice and Decision and you followed Him. Even (or perhaps, especially) if it meant you had to suffer or let part of yourself die in the process.   

I also hope you take a little bit of time to see how that process eventually popped you out of a Tomb of Doubt or Confusion or Frustration that you and those around you believed would have you buried forever, only to emerge,

 still alive,

 but newly transformed.

Just like on Easter morning.

Ta-da!

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