I have long been very skittish and measured when it comes to talking about my faith, and it took me a long time before I could write publicly about it at all. I suspect there are a few reasons for this. For one, I am a cautious and private person by nature. For two, I hate clichés, and nothing can foster cheesy, cliché, generalizations, like the talk of religious people who are following Jesus.
Beyond the risk of cliché I am also keenly aware of how many of my friends do not share my faith. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, and because faith interacts with our tenderest moments? It can be awkward, and intruding when uninvited. There is nothing worse than someone supplying a simple “easy faith fix” with an edge of “holier-than-thou” to life’s most complicated and painful moments. And the last thing I want, is to apply my beliefs about Jesus, as though I were an apothecary handing out a faith-balm.
I am also terribly aware of the mixture of faith and politics, and the messages implied by people of faith (some intentional, and others without intent.) And even those of us in faith, are frequently struggling to walk in a community where such messages are purveyed. Most of us want our non-believing friends to know something about the faith we have, for both selfish and less selfish reasons. For the more selfish part, we would prefer our friends respect us, and not think we’ve been faith-duped. But for the less selfish reasons, if our faith is genuine, it has likely been a source of peace, hope and comfort, and we would like nothing more than to share of those blessings. Yet, for many of us, (although, not nearly all of us,) what is coming from the faith-politics pulpit leaves us ashamed, and embarrassed (among a host of other emotions.)
As for my friends who walk in faith, I know for many, their faith status is “it’s complicated.” Many of us have gone through seasons of doubt and guilt about God, that leave us unsure if we still believe all this “Jesus, resurrection” business at all. Personally, I have a harder time speaking to this in particular, because I have yet to doubt in that way. While I have my share of seasons of doubt, as yet, my doubts about God have trended to drift around what God will do, and less about what He can do, or if he is and thus can do at all. I believe He is. I believe He can. I’m not always sure he will, and so my doubts exist, but in a different context. Yet, I’m aware that others struggle, and I don’t think I’m more pious for having not walked in their path.
And so, I talk about resurrection with the hope only of sharing what is tenderest to me in this season, and how much it means to me. Not because it’s an easy faith-balm, but because life isn’t easy, and it needs the kind of alchemist that can manage the nastiest of chemical spills.
I keep freshly discovering certain standard ideas of my faith. And I know a thousand things have been said about the resurrection. What more could I possibly say? And spoiler, I’m pretty certain I can’t add a single thing of merit . But also, I’m here writing because I can’t stop thinking about it this weekend, and not merely because it’s the time of year when we think about this… but because it is something that has been pressing on my heart for the last few months.
I have been thinking about hope a lot this last year. The reason, mostly, because I am nursing a broken-heart. Before you send out condolences, I’ll tell you upfront, it’s not a fresh wound. I actually have a personal rule against talking about open wounds on the internet? I think it’s important to be authentic without being too personal. I don’t think it’s impossible to be both authentic and private. That said, we all go through disappointments and heart beaks, and while this one isn’t that recent? I’m also not healing very fast.
Our hearts, much like our physical bodies, aren’t predictable when it comes to healing. For instance, sometimes when we catch a cold, we bounce back right away. Yet, other times we just can’t seem to get well. And if we’re not careful, the risk is that the single, simple, common, cold, can be aggravated into a raging, debilitating, pneumonia. And now, instead of getting well in a week, we’re out months, and we may also run the risk of doing extensive damage.
Some heartbreaks are like that. It’s a break on top of another break, and instead of healing quickly, you find yourself dealing with an entirely different disease. What I am coming to realize is that when we talk about a broken heart, the risk is, just as that cold catalyses pneumonia? A broken heart can transform into a broken hope.
Mind you, we can have a broken heart about many kinds of things. While we frequently think romance, we can in fact have a broken heart about anything we hope for — work, love, children, health, — if you can hope it, it can hurt you. When disappointment comes, what should happen, is that we become disappointed about that specific situation. But what I’m finding is that frequently, particularly when you have many disappointments in one area, those disappointments start to bleed into the hope, and they all get muddied into a confusing pile of broken bits. And suddenly it’s confusing to even remember what it is you’re hoping for to begin with. It’s hard to deconstruct the specific from the general, and vice versa. That’s why courage is so hard to summon– nothing hurts more than broken hope.
For this reason, many people have given hope a bad name. I recently read a book by Pema Chodron, called when things fall apart, in which she advises the benefits of hopelessness. As she, I believe rightfully notes, fear and hope cannot exist without one another. Where there is hope there is also fear.
I’ll put it another way; if you’re a person with a lot of fear, you are likely a person in struggle with hope.
She’s not the only one to pit fear and hope together. As Lewis Smedes points out in his book called, keeping Hope Alive, he calls worry and hope sibling rivals. He notes that many times when people get tired of worrying, they sometimes find relief by giving up on hope.
Pema is arguing that the solution is to rid of hope, while Smedes is arguing for the necessity of hope, but the importance of hoping for right things.
I believe in a world where love is the most important substance. And so to live with that value, the question I have to ask myself about hope is, can we love without hope? Intuitively, I want to say no, although I’m not sure I have argued that answer from all directions. Nonetheless, I do believe this: giving up hope is not the only way to get rid of fear. In fact, I’m certain about this — we overcome fear with love. I believe that with all my heart. And so, maybe giving up hope gets rid of fear? I’m not sure. But I do believe that we can get rid of fear with love. Love is always stronger.
I definitely favor Smedes solution over Pema –in a belief that the solution is not to give up hope, but rather to make sure we are hoping while being anchored firmly in love. And that brings me to the resurrection.
Hope is an analogue of the resurrection.
So what does the resurrection mean? Well, if the gospel story is historical truth (which I believe it is), it means that the God of love came to earth to show us love. And in that love, He exchanged his perfect life, for all of our messy broken ones. He died in the most horrifically, grotesque way imaginable, and that makes the crucifixion the most horrific moment in history. Why do I say that?
Because, the crucifixion is love broken in death. And not just any love, or any death — the purest of loves, in the vilest of deaths.
The transformative power of the story, however, is in an act of unfathomable creativity and love, death loses, and love wins. God takes the most awful thing to ever happen, and turns it into the most amazing thing to ever happen. He creates beauty from anguish. He curates life out of death. The power of the resurrection is believing in one who takes the worst, and makes it the best. And daring to believe that truth changes everything.
As my Pastor, Kris Loewen put it in his Easter sermon, “The resurrection isn’t just true because it happened. The resurrection is true because it happens.”
I know thinking about the resurrection isn’t some fresh or new insight — it is after all the potency of Christianity. Not just an escape from the fear of death, but the belief in one who takes love and uses it to transform brokenness into beauty, and death into life. In the season where I have spent so much time thinking about loss, and heartbreak, and trying to figure out how, and what, to hope for? Believing in the one who manifest hope is meaning more to me than ever before. And so this weekend, particularly, I am asking myself this; what does it mean to live as one who believes in resurrection? How do I live my life, in light of such a glorious phoenix-style-hope?
I hope this weekend, wherever you are with your faith, you will discover new and fresh hope.
May you see analogues of resurrection, everywhere you look.
And may the hope of love transform you.