He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
Easter was my favorite “Jesus” day.
I mean, Christmas was nice, with presents, and with Jesus being born and all. But Easter was where the rubber met the road. Easter was where the work got done. That’s where we got saved. Before that, everything was up in the air.
Sort of. I mean, he was “God,” right? The end was never in doubt. Not for him. All the drama, all the tears, all the pain and the blood. All theatre for the masses, if you think about it.
But I digress.
Easter was the day where it was all so real. For some reason I connected with what felt in my heart like my savior in a way I did on no other day. For a number of my last years as a Christian, I led worship for our devout, evangelical church. And on Easter, I would always passionately relate the reality of the resurrection. This wasn’t an idea. He stepped out of the tomb, the stone rolled away, and felt the sand crunch under his feet, felt the grass sigh with his passing, leaving droplets of the morning dew on his wounded feet. He breathed in the morning air, having returned from Hell itself to preach to those who died without hope. Well, according to whomever was writing as “Peter” anyway.
When I sang, led those songs, I was trying to pull everyone so close to the Lord they could feel his breath on their face, see the sparkle of moisture in his eyes.
Songs like this:
You have no idea how my heart was stirred.
How true it all was to me.
How much I wanted it to be true.
But of course, it isn’t. Of that I am sure now.
Twice I’ve had the privilege of sharing my story and answering questions of a seminary class in the Bay Area. These aren’t Sunday school kids barely scanning their bible. These are serious students who believe they’ve been called to devote their lives to ministering for Christ – saving the lost.
Both times they’ve asked me if I wished it was true. Did I wish I could believe.
Yes, I wish it. There are aspects of which I do not miss at all. The guilt, the anti-intellectualism, the hatred of reason, the bigotry against people who just want to live their lives. Those things I do not miss.
But I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that I miss the hope. I miss the thrill of Easter Sunday. I miss the hope of an eternity with the ones I love. I miss the hope of knowing everything there ever was to know. I miss the certainty that there would be no mysteries of the universe hidden from me.
I miss not being afraid to die.
But I am afraid to die. I see now how permanent it is. I see now how transient and impermanent we are. We are but a blade of grass, a small flower in the wind. We are here for a moment, then forever gone.
I was never afraid to fly when I believed. Now I usually don’t get on a plane without a stiff shot of whiskey in me. I’m not petrified, mind you. I’m not debilitated. And I’m philisophical about it. Once I’m on the plane, what happens will happen. But I’m still afraid.
At the most recent talk, a zealous young woman asked me why I don’t just believe anyway, if I missed it so, if I wished it was all true.
Because I can’t lie. Not to myself. I can’t bullshit myself that much. I mean, I can look in a mirror and imagine that I’m slightly better looking than I really am, but that’s about it.
I can’t pretend to believe something I’m certain is not true. I just can’t. Whatever I wish means nothing in the light of what is real.
I won’t get to know everything.
I won’t go on forever.
The mysteries of the universe are not answered when I go.
Like a falling leaf I will fall and be soon forgotten. In many ways it is the beauty of our fragile humanity. The preciousness of life is underpinned by its very transience. The delight in being alive today is not knowing whether you will still be alive tomorrow. The delight in looking into the eyes of your wife, your children, your dearest friend is given gravity by the knowledge that there’s a chance you may never do so again.
The afterlife awaits no one.
There was no Resurrection. There will be none for me, nor for you, nor for anyone who stood in church today and said, “He is risen indeed.”
I wish it were otherwise. But it is not.
And therein lies both the beauty and the tragedy of our fragile little lives.