March 27, 2016 by rebelwithalabelmaker
“And then,” a friend of mine said from the pulpit one Easter Sunday, “The disciples rolled back the stone at the opening, and found that the body of Jesus was not there. We don’t know for sure what this part of the story means. Some people believe that there was a miracle, and Jesus rose from the dead. Others believe that loving hands came and got him, and buried him somewhere secret and safe. Still others believe that the entire story is a myth—real not in the sense that it actually happened, but in that it teaches us valuable lessons in how to live our lives.”
And, from the second row, voice laced with obvious exasperation, a young voice pipes up.
“Well. Why don’t they just google it?”
It is easy to google a fact, and hard to google the meaning of it. And this experience, like so many that fill our lives, only starts with the moment it happened. After the living comes the remembering, the sharing of stories, the creation of meaning. This is how we chew and swallow the moments of our lives. That initial moment of living it—that’s just the first taste.
I struggle to imagine the defeat of it. The physical burden of carrying the entire weight of a lifeless body. The smoothing of oils over torn and bloody skin. The loss of hope. All of the potential that disappeared with Jesus’ last breath. I imagine those men walking home in the dark after laying him in the tomb. I imagine the sound of their feet on the gravel—loud in the wordless night. I imagine them finished.
This is the nature of defeat. It’s first taste is always the same.
But it’s only the first taste. After this, comes the remembering of it—the way flashes of Jesus’ tortured body lit the memories and lives of the men who saw it. The way they shared the story with one another, beginning with the loss of it. I imagine the hand on the shoulder, the slow finding of strength in one another. The way it gradually built over time. The digestion of it, and the gathering of strength in the awareness that they had not lost everything. The way they would have reached out to one another, and to the stories of Jesus’ life. The conversations had, huddled around fires in the evenings. The moment when someone decided to start tracing the lines of those stories onto paper.
I do not believe that every ending is a beginning because of some divine plan. The truth of it is much more mundane than that. Every ending is a beginning because the story continues, and we find ways to continue along with it. Defeat is like this. It must be digested. It transforms over time. First an experience, then a memory, then a story. We connect it with other experiences. We find a deeper truth. We weave it into a larger history.
Sometimes, this heals us. Sometimes, we go to roll back the stone, to re-experience the pain of that moment of loss… and we find that there is no body left in the tomb. It has become a story of a beginning, not an end.
It’s not always like this, though. Sometimes, we live with the pain of it permanently—and we learn to live lives that are always a little broken. But always, in some small place, there is a thread of something beginning. There is a learning, a hope. A carrying of broken and beautiful together. Yet, always, the story goes on.