The automatic doors on the minivan quit working sometime before Christmas. I pull the door closed and walk inside to do the dishes, only to discover the sink has clogged and the water won’t go down. My favorite leggings have a hole but I wear them anyway because every other option is dirty. I sit to do work, and as soon as I meet one deadline, three more show up in my inbox.
He says a word that is dismissive.
I feel like an idiot in her presence.
They had an expectation that I failed to meet.
Even these minor annoyances serve to remind us that we’re all on the road to death. And we walk this Lenten road whether we know or not that each of our steps is closer to sharing in his suffering. There may not be nail holes in our wrists, but aren’t there still holes?
We are offended when we are hurt. We are offended when they misunderstand. We are offended when they don’t acknowledge our feelings.
We are only offended because we forget we have died.
If there’s one thing certain to change life, it’s death.
Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life.
Colossians 3:3, The Message
We live false lives when we hold on to the old and refuse to acknowledge our death, when we grasp the threads of our Saturday lives, when we try to make second things first, when we hang on to our warm coffee mugs and our worn out offenses. She hurt me, you say. I have a right to my offenses.
Except that you don’t.
Death doesn’t always look like a tragedy. Sometimes death is a slowly dripping faucet. And even though these things can’t be compared to real danger or true poverty, disappointment and weariness can drip the life right out. Slow. Quiet. Drip.
No matter how much I feel called to write about art and grace and beauty, it can’t be ignored: the life of Christ was a one way road to death.
I know I often speak of desire here, of knowing what you really want to do and then finding the courage to do it, of discovering the shape of your own unique worship and then living as if you were truly alive. I know when I speak of desire there is a risk that I will be dangerously misunderstood. Hawaiian beaches and Paris strolls are not the desires I speak of. Making a difference for difference sake is not the desire I speak of. True desire doesn’t search for escape or fame or adoration. True desire is born out of death, of knowing I no longer live, but Christ.
His desire was that all people might live. And the fulfillment of his desire was only realized through death. Who am I to think that the road to realizing my own true desire would be paved with anything different? And so leading up to Easter, we often say things like, Jesus died so I didn’t have to, it’s actually much worse. The truth is, Jesus died and so did I.
But the worse morphs into better when we remember Jesus didn’t stay dead. And neither do we. Let the dying moments remind us where to find the living.
Here is the place where the ordinary peers through the glass dimly, where even though I stand alone in my kitchen or sit waiting on the phone or stretch out on top of the covers, I can be there at the cross. That even though I am offended, I do not have to take offense. Instead of standing up tall and tensing my shoulders, I can bow down low and remember I have died. And in that quiet, lowly place, I see a small blade, green and strong, born from the death of a seed. And life shoots up from broken earth carrying truth, joy, freedom. Because if I have died, then what have I to fear? And so from death, I live!
These words may not resonate with you right now. But maybe next week or next month or tomorrow, when the way she speaks to you is so shocking it makes your eyes cross, when the kids disrespect you so blatantly you can’t stand, when your boss blames you for that thing you had nothing to do with, maybe you will remember these words. This is what it feels like to die. And it hurts and is painful and doesn’t seem to have a point. Maybe it won’t have a point unless you demand it does, unless you insist on squeezing the death out of the moment until the life shows up, be it through gratitude, through acceptance, through belief.
“It matters not what my abilities may be then, provided that I possess you, Lord. Do what you will with this insignificant creature. Whether it be that I should work, or become inspired, or be the recipient of your impressions, it is all the same. Everything is yours, everything is from you and for you … Mine is to be satisfied with your work and not to demand the choice of action or condition, but to leave everything to your good pleasure.”
Jean-Pierre deCaussade, The Joy of Full Surrender