What If: Resurrection Still Matters?

Resurrection. A word that is deeply woven into the very fabric of all that is the Jesus story. One that is argued and disputed and yet held as a non-negotiable doctrine of Christianity. For once, I am not arguing. I’m not interested in that discussion today. What I need to say about this question is that resurrection does matter. It matters in such a significant way. A way that shapes all of us, even when we think we are not part of the story. Resurrection is the moment that life returns from death – when we think that the darkness has won and yet it does not have the last say.

“They were afraid.”

“They were filled with fear.”

“Do not be alarmed.”

These words depict the moments that the women came to Jesus’ tomb and they knew something was not right. The followers of Jesus knew about death, they knew about separation. They knew about having their very hope ripped from their hands and lives. The darkness won on Friday. The pain seemed everlasting. They had every reason to be afraid, and they were.

I get this. I have known moments of the deepest fear. A moment of looking over a bridge thinking that the world would be better without me. A moment of waking up still drunk and knowing that I was killing myself. A moment of removing a loaded gun from a desperate friend’s hand. A moment of crying on the floor of my closet wondering if my child would be alive in the morning. I know about fear. I know about the moments when things seem unfixable. I know about the times that by all worldly accounts, there is no good to come. I know about the kind of fear that can easily feel like the entire world is shaking at its core, earthquake like.

But I also know resurrection. I know the voice that says, “Do not be afraid.” I know the friends that walk into your life at the moment that you didn’t know you needed them. I know about the doctor that takes the time to listen and help. I know about the words of truth that call forth hope from moments of death. I know about the kind of resurrection that transforms the pain so much that recognition is unclear. This is why we can’t deny resurrection. Resurrection is the reshaping, the breath giving, soul returning patchwork that God has done and is doing in our lives every day. Resurrection happened and it is happening – ALL AROUND US!

I have been in a bit of a lifeless season. It was time for some ways of thinking and shaming and self-betrayal to die. I have spent the last two months working incredibly hard to breathe some life back into places in my soul that have seen death. 6 weeks ago, I began an intentional journey with these questions thanks to my girl, Glennon. In her new book Untamed, she unpacks this line that took me out at the knees:

“You need to make sure that the eyes in the mirror are the eyes of a woman you respect.”

And then she went on to pose some ass kicking questions that I have used as a resurrection standard for the next season of my life. What is my root belief? Do I value that belief? What is my boundary? What is true and beautiful? I have spent hours writing and shaping these truths about myself. It has been such a gift of new life. I am breathing life into and embracing the woman that I know God has been calling forth for some time. But it does not come without pain.

Resurrection requires death. To believe in the gift of resurrection is to trust that in dying to self (or lies, or systems, or erroneously owned labels) we are allowing and believe that something new can be reborn in its place. Resurrection means that we aren’t always in control, because new life comes from a Divine source that we have to allow it to heal and shape. Resurrection is the absolute best but it takes the most excruciating pain to experience. I don’t want to sugar coat this, the dying part sucks. It feels like your insides are being ripped out and exposed for all to use at a dart board. But, oh, the other side. The beautiful, brave, bold, subversive, honoring, life breathing side of resurrection. It’s time for you to see that side.

So what’s it going to be, my friend? What needs to die so that you can live? Let’s do this together.

What If: Jesus Is Not Enough?

I remember the first time that I doubted my salvation. I was in middle school and someone implied (aka told me – there is no subtlety in middle school) that my “way” of becoming a follower of Jesus was not sufficient. A real encounter with Jesus involved a certain prayer, usually after a certain invitation, and a certain response. This was not how people in my church world did the things. I tried to explain Confirmation, which was my most intentional response to date, and immediately things went even further south. That was “a Catholic thing” and I knew what that meant. My ticket to eternity was not punched in the eyes of that particular friend.

This trend did not end there. Sadly, I spent much of the next 20 years trying to give labels and moments and markers to the experiences that would qualify me for the in crowd. Throughout that time, this particular question was never on my mind. The search for belonging to the Christian community (both now and in the afterlife) was the driving factor in my quest for a sufficient demonstration of belief .

It was during my mid 30s that something significant shifted. I began to long for reconciliation and restoration. I quit fighting to be in the inner circle and realized that the one that I wanted to spend time with was always on the margins. The more that I looked for Jesus in the bigness and the production, the more I realized that I would always be disappointed. The life I longed to emulate would never thrive in the fancy, best or flashy. The only thing that I could hold onto was the fact that I just couldn’t shake the call to love like Jesus. It was only at that point that I first thought, what if Jesus is not all that I think he is?

So, I had to go back to the basics. What was it that I longed for and valued in my faith? Stillness. Peace. Hope. Joy. Grace. A call to include. The mandate to serve, with a pressing desire to live authentically seeking God’s will. All of these things could be found in the person of Jesus. Every time I tried to divorce myself from the trappings of rules and right/wrong thinking and closed minded religiosity, I could not shake the need to connect with this human example of love.

But, Lacy, what about the question? What do we do if Jesus is not enough? My first thought is which Jesus are we talking about? Are talking about the Jesus that the world told you about? Are we talking about the Jesus that your middle school friend dictated you were not qualified to spend eternity with? Are we talking about the Jesus that you are afraid might know the real truth about you? Or, are we talking about the Jesus that invited and welcomed and healed and advocated for the least, last and lost? Because when I go back and read about the Jesus of the Gospels, the one who’s life story was recorded by those who knew him, that’s the Jesus that I just can’t shake.

I want to clarify that by “shake” I don’t mean that I have atonement all figured out. I also don’t mean that I believe all the things that other Jesus people believe. I actually have about a 60/40 track record on the majors, and for someone who is hell bent to fight the rules of the establishment, I feel like that is some kind of big fat miracle in and of itself. What I know TODAY is that on the days that I’m sitting in the ‘I just don’t have the belief to believe today’ camp, I know that the Jesus I read about joins me there. I think that’s my most honest position and that is exactly the person that Jesus would have hung out with. He was not happily schmoozing with the religious leaders. He was not writing the rules to belong. He was not the slickest and most publicly appealing. He wasn’t holding the press conferences for attention. He wasn’t twisting truth for personal gain. He was honest. He was true to himself. He was human. He was an advocate. He was an includer. He was determined to offer freedom. He was Jesus.

===============================================

“It wasn’t shared social status or ethnicity that brought Jesus’ followers together either, nor was it total agreement on exactly who this Jesus character was – a prophet? The Messiah? The Son of God? No, there is one thing that connected all these dissimilar people together it was a shared sense of need: a hunger, a thirst, a longing. It was the certainty that, when Jesus said He came for the sick, this meant Jesus came for me.”

Rachel Held Evans Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church