A little over a year ago, at the start of Lent, I was in Thailand. Surrounded by the beauty and glory of Creation, my soul usually feels most alive, and yet, all I could see — all I could feel — was death. Months earlier, my dear friend lost her child very late term. Weeks after that, I experienced a miscarriage. I’d never felt more alone and isolated and not understood.
Death around me. Death inside of me. Death. Death. Death.
So I read.
In “A Path Through Suffering” Elizabeth Elliot begins each chapter with examples of life-through-death in nature. It is take me a while to get used to the whole “death” idea, but with the start of Lent, I feel hopeful for God to really make the two inextricable in my mind/soul. In Christ (because of Christ) new life will ALWAYS come after/through death. O, help my unbelief. May the ashes all around me become for me, like Job, a place of vision.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to gather with other ladies and this “life-through-death” principle ended up being a large focus. I found myself remembering what it felt like a year ago when all I could see, or really even imagine, was death. Knowing mentally that God was able to bring about new life, but not yet experiencing it.
My life looks quite different than it did last year. God gave me the sweetest rainbow baby, and I’m spending this season enjoying the heck out of her. Enjoying the heck out of both of my precious daughters!
Still, her delivery left me broken. The circumstances left me feeling forsaken (our bodies and souls are really, really tied together, I’m beginning to learn. I think this is part of why God gave us physical practices that point to His life: communion, baptism, marriage and sex… He knows our bodies can preach to our minds and souls). Often, motherhood feels like a continual invitation to death of various sorts: lay down your time, your preferences, your leisure, your sleep, your hot coffee, your ability to think of yourself as a generally patient and kind person.
Do I believe that there is life to be found through the death?
I think the answer is finally becoming yes. Yes!
Because here’s the thing. When I experienced the most suffocating sadness and loneliness after the death of Canaan, Jesus was so near. He (and He alone) was the Friend to whom my soul needed to cling. He was the most tender comforter. And He’s the One who says, and lived out, the counter-intuitive principle of “it’s more blessed to give than to receive.” He’s the One who makes that true for us. So I can give up the plans I had for my evening (chocolate) to fall asleep next to a dear preschooler who keeps asking for “so many five more minutes” – and I can even give up the martyr feeling I usually associate with that…in favor of just GIVING freely and joyfully. And I give up the anxiety behind the illusion of control in favor of offering up my whole heart to love another person without walls of self-protection, even in the face of potential loss.
Of course I am still growing, but I’ve caught myself in a few victories recently: choosing to give myself more freely and joyfully, even if in just little things. And I’m pretty sure it’s because I am starting to really believe that after death, there’s life.
Last year? It was so important to wrap my soul around the reality of death. In this world and this life, for this age at least, there is death. (And death SUCKS. I am definitely NOT arguing death does not suck.)
But now? My soul is finding itself being wrapped in life. Still often through death. But always, there is life.
This is Easter. This is participating in the life and death of Jesus Christ. This is losing my life to find it. This is the beautiful true story. This is the life of God in and through me.
He is risen. He is alive. And He is making us alive again and again, to a greater and greater extent.