Resurrection: So, What was Wrong with my Old Life?
I spent some time hanging out with my young nieces this week, which always gives me a new perspective. They ask some of the more obvious questions that we grownups tend to gloss over. At the risk of putting words into their mouths, since we didn't actually discuss this, I am thinking that if we were to talk together about resurrection and new life, at least one of them would ask me, "But what was wrong with my old life?"
This is one of the great things about children. Most of them are not plagued with the kinds of doubts and questions adults are. They can't really imagine the need for personal transformation unless it includes a new bedspread and curtains, new clothes, or a fleet of new toys and games. After all, they are growing all the time, and mostly they like that.
With a child, there is nothing wrong with the old life. One stage naturally gives way to the next stage as the child develops, and each stage has its many delights and also a few negatives. Even the "terrible two" is living in a time of fantastic discovery that is a pleasure to watch, perhaps especially knowing that both the terrible and the fantastic will morph into something else before long.
And, actually, I think with adults the same is generally true. There are some of us who have made major, life-changing transformations, giving up lives ruined by addiction, crime, predatory behavior and et cetera. But most of us have not been called back from such a life. Most of us have just been plodding along, trying to do the best we can, staying mostly out of trouble. Why do we need transformation? What is wrong with doing the best we can and staying mostly out of trouble? I guess nothing, except that it's not life abundant.
The resurrection life in this world is not just one long string of ideal moments interlaced with a strand of ecstasy and another strand of contentment. But at least according to the Gospel of John, God's wish for us, because God loves us, is for us to have abundant life. Overflowing life. We were created to live in paradise and God wishes that kind of life for us. But in this life, such abundance is something we only catch glimpses of every now and then. Every so often we may suddenly become aware of how wonderful and full life is, perhaps as we sit in a shady spot on a warm day surrounded by smells and sounds and children. Perhaps playing the piano or listening to music, watching the clouds, reading a book, sitting in a lecture or class, on a date with our life partner of many years, rocking a baby, riding a bike, climbing a mountain. Standing ankle deep in clear, burbling water or at the edge of the ocean. Riding the waves, gliding along in a canoe, sailing. Playing badminton or baseball or golf. Moments when the world's woes and our own anxieties are set aside so that we can drink in that which feeds our souls.
The resurrection life is letting anxieties and shoulds and musts and not-good-enoughs go so that one can be present to God and to one another and to God's creation. The resurrection life is being a co-creator with God - a creator of art, music, dance, conversation, beauty, joy, contentment. Creating a safe space for interaction. And especially, the resurrection life is letting go of fear. Fear of every kind that distorts us, that keeps us locked up, that feeds all the negative feelings and emotions we humans are susceptible to.
The life of anxiety and fear and desperation and loneliness - that's the old life that is wrong. That's the life to let go of. That's the life God calls us to lay down at the altar so that we can live lives of joy that are newly created every day.