For the Christian, The Resurrection is serious business and a serious cause for celebration. For all celebrating this sacred Holy Day, may the peace and joy of Jesus Christ be present in your worship, your time with loved ones, and in your heart.
Regardless of your disposition toward The Resurrection, the concept of “resurrection” is worthy of reflection as we make our way through our own trials and tribulations. In its most literal sense, resurrection is coming back to life but we also use it to describe revival or renewal. However, before a person or thing can be resurrected, it must first die.
Death is the absence of life. In death, physical existence ends. But we also use it as a metaphor to describe a variety of human experiences ranging from embarrassment to fear to pain. In this way, death is inflicted upon our heart or our soul. Here we find hurt, suffering, and ultimately, loss.
For the living, death is really about loss. Loss of life or the loss of something dear to us like time, innocence, youth, hope, or self. Death is something we don’t want to experience though we will all experience it in these, and possibly other, forms in our own lives. Death is inescapable.
Deaths of the Heart
In some dramatic cases, we might tell someone they are “dead to us” to suggest that something they’ve done is so horrific or hurtful as to be unforgivable. The hurt runs so deep that we choose to relegate that person to non-existence, banishing them from our life…from our heart. Though this theme is a popular trope for dramatic novels, and difficult to imagine as a literal expression in our modern era, its application is very much alive in word and deed. In one way or another, all of us have experienced this form of death in our own lives.
Many find themselves on the outside of relationships due to a falling out. Blood may be thicker than water but it is often less of a tie that binds than we might hope. Sibling, friend, co-worker, spouse, parent, child…no relationship is too important to be thrown on the altar of betrayal, deception, or some other “unforgivable” mistake. The piercing of our heart is a living death and, like our physical demise, none of us will escape it.
Deaths of the Soul
Deaths of the soul come from our mistakes, perceived failings, and our sense of place in this world. Here, we find another altar on which to throw ourselves, sacrificing love, or respect, of self through loss of integrity, courage, faith, hope, prudence, or temperance. Each its own little death, often leading to greater loss. Failings here are self-inflicted and these crosses of death are also unavoidable.
Moving through life, we carry a collection of these hurts, each its own little death. Compiled, they can add to great loss. Some of us are crushed under their weight. Some of us are restrained from true joy. Some of us find paths to thriving. All of us struggle.
A Price to be Paid
How do we move from death to life? There is always a price to be paid. Atonement. Redemption comes through humility and the choices we make after these deaths. Redemption is a powerful word. The origin of the word means “to buy back.” To be redeemed is to be liberated. Deaths of the heart tend to center on stubborn pride – the conviction that I AM RIGHT. Here, real and imagined hurts are dealt and received. Many feel fatal but hope remains.
What is the price to be paid? Can we pay it? Will we pay it? Remember, redemption is liberation. Forgiveness of the other is the pathway. Humility is the price that must be paid. Humbling self. Letting go of being right or righteous. What I want. What I need. What I demand. What I deserve. Here, redemption only occurs in the humbling of self enough to ask for forgiveness AND to give it. How do we find humility? Space enough through time. Perspective enough by seeing the long game of a lifetime. Love enough to will the good of the other…despite our own selfish motives.
For death of the soul, a similar formula applies. Here, redemption comes in the form of self-forgiveness. Time, perspective, and love. The errors of our ways, the mistakes in our choices, and the self-centeredness of our inclinations must be humbly acknowledged…and then released. There is still a price to be paid, but here, we set the bar on our own redemption. Atonement is making a choice to pay the price and being able to accept when it’s been paid.
Some may see redemption through the eyes of their faith while others may choose to walk a different path. Wherever you find yourself, freedom, redemption, happens when we recognize, and choose to pay, the price for our mistakes, and then accept forgiveness. Sometimes, offering forgiveness is the price.
Death is serious business. Death is loss and pain and struggle. Death is part of life. What is life? To live is to breath and think and be. But mere existence is just the ante to the game. Each of us is given life and we are meant to LIVE it fully. We are also given great latitude in determining what “fully” means. It will take most of us a lifetime to figure that out…if we’re lucky. That’s ok, there is great joy in that journey.
Along the way, we will encounter death. Death of loved ones. Death of youth and innocence. Death of dreams. Death of hope. Death of relationships. We will also encounter resurrection – new life brought back after our encounter with death. Another chance. Another shot. Another opportunity to try again. Our hearts will be pierced. Our souls will falter. Each time, we will have to find our way to redemption. Each time, we will have to accept the price in forgiving or being forgiven. Each time we will have to trust in our own resurrection to the new life waiting on the other side.
I turn 57 today. For the first time, I don’t feel like I have a lot of time. The thought of my own mortality is certainly on my mind. It makes me want think about what I want to do differently with whatever time I have left. With my family. What more can I be for and with them? Daily with my wife of 33 1/2 years, I try to make her smile. I am a bit of a goofball, sometime she finds me annoying, but quite often, I can make her smile. Its worth it.
Thank you for these words, Phil. I’ve been overwhelmed as of late and embracing the many things I am hopeful for helps me focus. The many forms of death – figurative and literal – are inevitable, but finding the path to resurrection is greater than the sorrow.
You lift us up with your insight! Your mind is so full, thank you for sharing it.