I know, it’s Lent. And I’m out of sync with the liturgical calendar. But I’ve been meditating on the Resurrection in my Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, and something really struck me recently. It involved Peter, John and the tomb of Jesus, which Mary Magdalene had just reported she’d found empty. The two apostles ran like lightening to see it for themselves, and John, being faster, arrived first.
When he got there, the beloved disciple merely bent down apprehensively and peered into the dark grave. But then he stepped into the tomb, and he truly came to believe. Suddenly, John saw things from a completely new perspective, and he understood what it meant to rise from the dead (John 20:8-9).
How often have we peered into the tomb of our lives, standing on the edge of real or imagined “death,” looking in and fearing the worst? How many times have we gazed into the black hole of our dreads, afraid that we might fall into the darkness? I’ve done it a thousand times, and I’ve learned firsthand, it’s deadly.
Truth is, we cannot know the power of God to raise us from a thousand deaths until we step into the tomb and experience the power of the Resurrection. That shift in perspective is precisely what constitutes hope.
I’m watching hope unfold in living color in the life of my son, Christian, and, oh, how it makes my heart smile. I remember five short months ago when Christian came home from Communita Cenacolo, the place he had called home for four years. Leaving the safe confines of the cloistered community that saved his life and delivered him from addiction was a frightening prospect. He was anxious about how he would take care of himself, and had no idea where he was going or what the future held.
“How am I supposed to do this?” he asked, understandably scared about how he was going to make it on the outside. I had agreed to follow Community’s wise counsel of letting him find his own way, and of not rescuing him from his own life.
“You do it by doing it, Christian,” I assured him. “And with God’s help, you will learn that you can do it.”
God quickly opened a door for him to go to Wyoming—back to the youth ranch where he had lived for a year as a fourteen year-old boy. He was offered a job there earning minimal pay and working long hours running a house full of troubled teens; boys that I knew would provide a mirror image of him at that age. He took the job and packed his bags, leaving my house with a sack full of qualms and “what ifs” on his back. My heart ached as I watched him peer into the tomb of his life, and all I could do was pray and trust that God would take care of him.
Christian’s legs were wobbly when he first stepped in, just like when he learned to walk. But he moved into his fears with faith, and his legs grew stronger. With each step forward, his faith and strength grew, and the hope in his voice increased.
“I’m doing it, Mama,” he shared yesterday, as I told him how proud I am of him. “And it’s not as bad as I thought.”
Peering into the darkness can be terrifying, and we tend to imagine the worst. But stepping into the empty tomb and experiencing the power of the Resurrection convinces us that Jesus has, in fact, overcome death—both His own and every death we face. We may know this theoretically, and even believe it in good faith. But it is only in experiencing this reality personally that we can come to know the force of the Resurrection, a force that moves stones away and blows boulders out of our lives.