New life in the mess

During this Easter season, I have found myself wondering a lot about what it means for us to experience the power of resurrection life in our ordinary and sometimes mundane lives. This sort of worked its way into me in a new way as I read the account of Jesus preparing breakfast on the beach for his disciples. This is after he’s been put to death and then risen again, so it’s part of a great heralding in of the newness signified by his not-staying-dead. And somehow the masses of fish those guys caught, when they followed Jesus’ instruction to fish from the other side of their boat, has the mark of resurrection and fullness of life all over it.

I don’t know about you, but I want that kind of life to mark me too! And I don’t just mean experiencing huge blessings in my vocational life, like those fishermen did, although that would be nice. I guess I mean an experience of richness in an altogether more nuanced and holistic way. And perhaps even a quieter way. I’m pretty sure that living life in this kind of resurrection framework wouldn’t just be great for us, it would spill over and affect the people around us too.

Paul told the community of Jesus-followers in Rome that, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (that’s in Romans 8). And he meant a certain kind of ‘life’ - a rich life, full of depth and goodness, with the fragrance of resurrection on it.

This invitation to Life in the ordinariness of what it means to be human, I do so want this. But it’s not always what I experience.

This week, I have been battling severe allergies. It’s been bad! My nose is dripping like a tap, so that half the time I feel I can hardly breathe, especially when I’m trying to sleep. Then there are the moments when I could scratch my eyes out, they are so itchy. I’ve never had allergies like this, it’s exhausting.

I won’t say it’s the most exhausting thing about life at the moment, though. That particular award probably goes to the effort of parenting an anxiety-ridden teenager through exam season. The ups and downs of this emotional roller coaster give me vertigo, complete with the gut-wrenching nausea of coming up over the summit and plunging head-long down the other side. We’ll live through it but not without some battle scars.

Where is resurrection life at work in all this, then?

My mind goes to the movie, The Passion of the Christ, and to that heart-stopping scene when Jesus is shown carrying his cross after being beaten and abused. He’s bloody, stooped with fatigue and anxiety, reaching deep within for the strength to carry the very timbers he will die on. And then he sees his mother, who runs to him in an agony of compassion, fear and foreboding. In the midst of all this mess and pain Jesus makes this amazing declaration - not the kind of triumphalist declaration we might wish for, yet somehow a statement that brings with it the certainty of hope - ‘Behold!’ he says, ‘I am making all things new!’

The contrast between this statement, so filled with promise and expectation, and the reality of his situation jars us out of any preconceived ideas of how this process of ‘making things new’ should look. It reframes for me what living from a place of resurrection might look like in my ordinary, messy and sometimes painful life. 

Could it be that right here, in the midst of the sneezing and the crying, the worry and the wondering, right here I am being invited to experience resurrection?

I want resurrection life to mean a miraculous end to the misery of allergies. I want it mean a sudden realignment of my daughter’s thinking so that she is free of anxiety and able to confidently and victoriously face this season of life. But what if it means embracing the limitations of my physical body, having the freedom to eat and rest well, and to explore the goodness inherent in nature for some solutions to support my well-being? What if it means learning to be present to my anxious teen by learning that as I ‘hold’ her in this space, I am held and sustained by the love of God and the love of community? 

There is something within me that is being made new right in the midst of this messiness. It doesn’t always feel good - it stretches me in ways that are beyond uncomfortable - and yet I know that without this newness I could not traverse this season with anything resembling faithful presence.

The image that comes to mind is of the disciples who met the resurrected Jesus on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, but didn’t recognise who he was. (I love that even resurrected he looked so ordinary that they walked with him for miles without noticing anything unusual about him!) It was only as Jesus broke the loaf of bread open at the table later that evening that they suddenly saw him for who he was. 

And perhaps for us it is the same way, perhaps there is something about our experiences of being broken open that causes us to see Jesus for who he really is. Could it be that this new seeing - the seeing that comes out of brokenness - is part of the grace-filled fallout of resurrection as it works its way into our ordinary, human living?

May you too find surprising new springs of life bursting (or even trickling) out of you, from those cracked-open places that have felt like death.