Re-post: Rhythm, Depth, and the Connectedness of Life
This is a blog I wrote two years ago on my Hesed Now site. It is unreal how this happens every year. I happen to be sick again at the same time of year. I wanted to re-post the blog in its original form to show you how we carry grief with us even a decade later. Here it is:
Over the last two and a half weeks I have been battling a sickness that has been kicking my tail. It started with nausea, led to a 9 point cold on a 10-point scale, and now is in the “cough up your lungs” stage. What I am experiencing is not uncommon for this time of year. In fact, a number of people in our church have a similar illness that they’ve been battling for weeks as well. But what is interesting to me is that I have been sick at least 6 out of the last 8 years around this exact time period. How do I know this? Well it’s not because I track my colds and viruses on an Excel spreadsheet.
Today (March 3) is a day that will always be seared into my family’s memory. In my opinion there are three types of days. There are normal days that you need to look on a calendar or internet site to figure out what happened on “this day in history.” These dates are the majority of our days. Then there are dates that we are supposed to remember and commit to memory. These are birthdays, anniversaries and important dates in history. These days are important in your life, but the very fact that you have to work to commit them to memory puts them in this category. The last category is filled with days that you could never forget even if you tried. I am sure that September 11 is one of these days for a large majority of Americans. And, as I said earlier, March 3 is one that my family always remembers without effort. Eight years ago today my youngest sister was killed in a car accident as a 16 year old. The events that transpired still ring fresh in my memory even with the passing of nearly a decade.
And that takes me back to my sickness. My personality is one that usually buries emotion and hides weakness. But this terrible habit of mine usually catches up with about this time every year. Now I may get sick around this time of year because my immune system is lower in the winter and more susceptible to illness. But somehow or another my body has become worn out and fatigued at this exact day almost every year for the last 8 years. I also usually become a little more irritable and moody. All of this happens even without me consciously anticipating the anniversary of her wreck. I’ve got to admit, last Tuesday I did not sit around and think, “only one more week until March 3.” In fact, two days ago I couldn’t have told you it was coming up. It is not something I have to cognitively dwell on to have it affect me. My body responds and reacts because it is ingrained in my rhythm. I also believe that it reacts because we are so intimately connected with the created world around us. When we experience the death of something we love, a piece of our lives will also forever be gone with that person or thing.
And that reminds me of what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Paul begins by talking about the nature of life and how fragile we are as humans. He describes life as one where we are troubled, deeply saddened or in despair, and even stricken with illness. He goes on to say, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” And this speaks to how intimately connected we are with one another. This is the glory of the Gospel, which is truly Good News: that we must die in order to have life. It is also the true meaning of being a Christian. Not that we just “believe in” Jesus’ death and resurrection, but that we actually “identify with” Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is why Paul can say in Galatians 5:24, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh.” And that is why he can go on to say in Romans 6:3-5, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
To me that is what Lent is about. Going through a 40 day “wilderness experience” and letting parts of your life die so they can regenerate into something new and holy. And that is why I will embrace the sickness in my body that I carry around in part because of my mourning. To know Jesus in his death is to know him in his resurrection. I am aware that Jesus has risen and remains alive during Lent, but this is a period for Christians to experience a connectedness with God in his suffering. This is my only hope during times of deep grief over my sister or other friends and family that have passed away: that God took it upon Himself to be subjected to suffering and death so that we might have life. And there is a time to celebrate this life as Christians, and that is Easter. There is also a time to celebrate my sister’s life, and that is March 4 and June 28 (her birthday). But today, just as in the Lenten season, we mourn and experience the depths of the pain of death so that we can experience the heights and joy of eternal life. Because we know that “if we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”