Sunday, March 23, 2008

When it rains on Easter Sunday

So what do we do when Easter Sunday dawns cold and wet, and the view from the bedroom window is still the same? When the marriage is still in tatters, the job lost, the disease or pain still with us, the precious seat at the breakfast table still heartbreakingly empty?

I wish I had the answer. What I know is that it is tempting to close my eyes, roll over, and go back to sleep, praying that when I do finally awaken it will all have been a dream. Which is what we are doing when we take refuge from the present in food, or alcohol, sex, drugs, or television; by wallowing in memories of the past or dreaming of the future; by immersing ourselves in anger or drama; in computer games or internet surfing or shopping or politics or the stock market or in any of the other substances and experiences out there which help numb us to the emptiness and hopelessness of the present.

Perhaps it's just that we got the question wrong in the first place. Because the truth is that we are not the rainy day. We are not the victim; we are more than the job or the illness; more than the children or the love we are given for all too short a time; more than the clothes or the house or the car or the health or the youth or the beauty or the family that we thought defined our role in life.

Of course we miss whatever we have lost. We are human, and attachments are all too easy to form -- centuries of art, poetry, literature and music would tell us that if we did not already know it ourselves. But we are not our attachments. We are what is left when the attachment is gone; we are the empty space inside, into which we breathe fresh new life every few seconds without even having to think about it. And those centuries of art, poetry, literature and music are achingly beautiful to us because they serve as reminders that we are not alone in our loss; that others, too, have experienced devastation yet survived, even thrived, and found new hope and life in spite of it all.

It is perhaps foolish to expect that Easter will actually arrive on its designated day; like the groundhog expecting to see his shadow on February 2nd, it is inevitable that there will be years when we are disappointed. But spring, too, is inevitable, even when it is delayed. We will continue to breathe, and the sun will continue to rise every morning, filling the sky with light even when the clouds obscure its shape and color.

Yes, there is the temptation to bury ourselves in fruitless activity or waking sleep. But the message of Easter is about the promise of resurrection. And if we stop burying ourselves, even just for a moment, and breathe, and breathe again, we hear that the birds are singing from their rainy branches; we can smell the promise of fresh earth, see the daffodil stems beginning to poke through and feel the gentle patter of rain on upturned cheeks.

It is in that moment, when we are fully present to our surroundings, that we can know, however briefly, the joy of the empty tomb. Surely, like all of us, when Mary saw the stone had been rolled aside and the body was gone, she was devastated anew at her loss. But it is in that moment that we have the opportunity to experience the promise of eternity; of Christ no longer separate from us but one with us.

And if we can stay present, even for just that moment, there is a contentment that fills us, and echoes warmly through the space within. In that emptiness, if we are willing to sit with it, we have an opportunity to watch it fill with love; to learn that all we hoped and longed for now resides within us, filling us with wholeness, love and compassion for the journeys yet to come.

So listen to the rain spattering on the windows and breathe, and know the rain will stop, the sun will rise, the flowers will grow and die and the rain will fall again. And through it all Christ's spirit of love continues to fill us with every breath we take.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Diane, I have been reading since the beginning of your blog, look for it everyday, and am waiting for your book to come out! Thank you for sharing your inspires me...comforts me, brings peace...blessings - Angela Meek