For what have I died? For what have I given over my spirit?
It makes me wonder about the tomb on Easter morning.
I've learned a lot about dying in the past 5 years. In fact, I've almost got it down to a science. It can almost become a very manipulative situation, as I've battled within myself to appease two opposing forces. It's not that part of me has wanted to live and part of me was ready to die; no, once death had overtaken me, it became a matter of community. Part of me wanted to do it as publicly as possible, for the only fate worse than death is loneliness, and yet, part of me wanted the dignity of a quiet process. So I searched for a way to drag others far enough into it that I could tell part of the story without telling the whole story. For those of you who feel manipulated by this whole process, let me offer my deepest apologies; it was never my intent to use people. And most of this has been unconscious.
But death was my closest friend. And I found myself quickly living a life that had no life left in it. My mind was warped to see only the bad. I lived pill-to-pill, nap-to-nap, and sometimes nap-to-pill and pill-to-nap. "Life" as I knew it was about sustaining it. Along with death came fear, which brought a facet of death all its own. What if I push my body too far, do too much? No, best not to do anything at all. It had laid in its bed so long that even the slightest activity seemed to much, seemed to push me past my physical limits. Or what if I were to go out somewhere and something were to happen? (My biggest fear has pretty much been throwing up in public.) No, best not to go anywhere at all. It got to the point where I was having panic attacks just THINKING about grocery shopping or church or anything like that.
What's weird is that when I died, people started treating me differently. They came to expect less of me, which made me, in turn, expect less of myself. When things popped up that scared me or that I didn't trust my body to handle, I backed down. "Sorry. I'm dead." And that was pretty much ok with people. Actually, it still is...with most people.
Somewhere in all of this, God's voice was lost. That is, if it ever existed to begin with. On that note, I have a bit of a spiritual confession to make.
God never really meant that much to me. As a pagan child, I think I had more faith than my first 8 years as a Christian. God was something I did because a cute boy with a rat tail led me to church one day, and what I found was that church filled a hole I had in my heart. Not with God, but with people. There were lots of people there! People who could, potentially, love me like I had always wanted to be loved, like my parents had failed to do. And in order to get these people, I had to get God. So I put on a show.
That's not to say I didn't have my divine moments. Lounging around the Bruce house or the Bruce office, talking about real stuff and feeling loved, not judged, I encountered God. Lying on the Cundiff couch, staring up at the cross in the ceiling and feeling safe, I encountered God. Hearing Ryan McCullough, standing on stage in a portrayal of Jesus and saying "I love you," I encountered God. Sitting in Ken's office, not crying, but feeling heard, I encountered God. But aside from this, most of my encounters with God were intellectual, not heart-led, and most of the things I said about Him were just repetitions of things I'd heard others say.
But these past several months, I have been on sabbatical. It's been a time "set apart," as the word indicates, just for me to wrestle with God and come to know Him. And boy, has He shown up! I read the Bible cover-to-cover, whereas before, I was only skimming to find verses for writing projects. God is more incredible than I ever could have imagined! Though I still struggle, I am learning to pray. I don't get much sleep these nights because God is usually talking most of the night, but that's ok because I am learning so much! I usually wake up with a song in my heart or just laughing uncontrollably, and I can't stop all day. There is so much joy, and I just can't explain it. Even in the bad times now, I just laugh, because it is so far beyond me, and I just can't help myself.
It moves beyond me, as well. A lot of what God lays on my heart these days is about my larger world, my bigger community. I am literally heartbroken over much of what I see and hear all around me. This is not the world God intended us to live in; we are far from Eden. And there is a pull inside me to look for a way to do something about it, even if only a little bit. In the meantime, I mourn. I literally mourn.
And so I find something deep inside of me now yearning to live. I want to let the sun hit me and rejuvenate my soul. I want to go outside and build a snowman. I want to hop in my car and drive, just pay a visit to someone who could use some company. I want to take a walk around the park. I just want to be out of this damned room, out of this damned bed.
Yet I still struggle between death (body) and life (spirit). The more I feel God pulling me to do things, the more my body comes under attack. If I just take off and go as the Spirit leads me, I find myself running frantically back home, usually searching for a pill. So I run back and forth between freedom and captivity, between life and death.
I find myself more on the "life" side as time passes by. Day after day, it gets a little bit easier to follow the Spirit and overcome death. But as I step into a new life, I can't help but ponder two ideas.
The first, I presented earlier. For what did I die? For what did I give up my spirit? The answer is not a pleasant one, but in honesty, it was for me. To give in proved easier than to fight. It was easier to lie around in death than to push forward and embrace what God has given me. After all, in death, there is no failure. No shortcomings. If I try my hardest and still fail, that is horrible. So I convinced myself it was best not to try at all.
And second, I find myself pondering the tomb on Easter morning. I wonder if Jesus found himself in the same boat I now find myself in - trying to learn to live again. A lot of people think Jesus always lived, but I doubt that. I think that for those three days, He lain dead, apart from God, apart from life. And when life returned to him that Easter morning, He had to learn to live again. You'll notice He didn't just go running out of the tomb, throwing off graveclothes and leaving a trail. He got up slowly, tidied His burial wrappings, maybe even pondered for awhile what death had meant, and then stepped back out into life.
So I don't think I'm gonna hop out and live right away, but I am definitely pondering the graveclothes. I feel the tugging of the Spirit and the defiance of the body, the life of God and the death of the flesh. It's a battle; I won't lie. But life, God, will win. In the meantime, I sit with a sense of contentment, with a presence of joy, and a stillness in my spirit...and I can't help but sing:
'Agios, 'Agios, 'Agios
Kurios o theos
Pleres tes es doxes
'o oura nos kai ge.
Panter pantor krator
poi ton ton 'olon
Soi prepe einos
doxa kai time.