Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. (John 20:1)
In her powerful book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, which I just finished reading and highly recommend, Barbara Brown Taylor writes,
“As many years as I have been listening to Easter sermons, I have never heard anyone talk about that part. Resurrection is always announced with Easter lilies, the sound of trumpets, bright streaming light. But it did not happen that way. If it happened in a cave, it happened in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”
I've been watching our rhododendron sleep through the winter, the buds closed tight, hunkering down.
At one point in the coldest and snowiest and darkest of days, the buds were covered with ice and the leaves were droopy and frozen.
I stood there looking at it through my big window, marveling that when the light and the warm and the spring works its magic, each frigid bud will burst forth into all the purple blooms that shout beauty and hope.
New life starts in the dark.
Today, we are reminded of that in spades.
Today, we stand outside of a cave, a tomb, the darkest place of all, one that reeks of betrayal and suffering and loneliness and despair and ultimately death.
And today, we stand with Jesus in the light as His very presence reminds us that He is the resurrection and the life.
He is the One who weeps with us in the dark when we are betrayed by the very ones who are supposed to love us.
He is the One who will wipe every tear from our eyes.
He is the One who shouts, "I will never leave you or forsake you." You are never ever alone.
He is the One who often brings that small flicker of hope right when we feel the most like there is none.
And He is the one who fashions new life from what is very very dead.
In our homes.
In our dreams.
In our bodies.
In our checkbook.
In our hearts.
And on the days that I am able to grasp this just a bit, it changes everything for me.
I trust that Jesus is alive and rooting for me.
I am comforted by the God knows the dark just like I do.
I rest, knowing that death never has the last word.
I cling to hope, believing that resurrection is meted out in my everyday life as I eat, work, play, struggle, laugh, and do my best to love.
And I know that God is not finished telling my story and the big giant story of redemption quite yet.
But there are days that I am stuck in the dark, unable to see even a hint of the life that's to come.
And on those days, God is with me. Emmanuel.
God is with me.
When anxiety riddles at 2:30 am.
As bad news comes about a friend.
In my rejection from those I thought would be by my side.
During the call from the doctor.
If I'm numb or sad or doubting or dying (on the inside or the outside) or insecure or abandoned or unfaithful or sick or or or...
God is still with me.
I'm peeking out an my rhododendron on this bright, sunny Easter morning.
It's reaching for the light and its leaves are glorious.
The buds are still closed, not quite as tight, and I can see their faint color through the green.
Soon, the purple will unfurl into all of its goodness.
It won't be for a few more weeks, but I can feel the incredible new life that starts in the dark as if it is right now.