I’m kind of into Easter this year. And by Easter I mean the overdetermined cultural phenomenon that includes Pagan celebrations of spring rebirth as well as the Christian holy day honoring of Jesus’ resurrection, with some woo woo “it’s the season of renewal” thrown in too. (And maybe one or twelve Reese’s peanut butter eggs. Wait, where did they go?)
Maybe I’m extra turned on about Easter because I spent so much of 2016 so far being ridiculously sick, and now that I finally feel like I’m solidly BETTER, I am about as excited and energized as if I’d literally crawled out of the cold earthy grave, dragging crocuses behind me. It’s also renewal time at home: we’re redoing some rooms, and I’m getting my own bedroom/office/studio, something I’ve been longing for over the past several months. My outer space is being repurposed, or in a sense, reborn. Maybe it’s putting me in the right frame of mind to tune in to this seasonal energy.
On a different level – a heart level, not a head level – I have felt drawn back to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I’ve been attending Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality for just under a year – I started going soon after the big Easter service last year. Apparently it’s traditional for them to have the Queen City Jazz Band come and lead a jazz-gospel service. !!!!!! What an incredible treat that was!
And as part of the service, some scriptures were read that I haven’t heard for yeeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrrrs. It has been a while since I heard these passages straight from the Gospels, rather than the paraphrased modern version of events. And my heart being already an open state, the words went in deep, like a long needle, sharp and healing at the same time.
This being an inclusive, interfaith community with a mystical orientation, the story of Jesus’ last moments was told not as an example of what a perfect being is like, but as a teaching about how WE can be — more humble, more trusting, more forgiving, more welcoming — and closer to God.
There were lots of things said that I will be taking away to mull further. The most striking for me, though, was the phrase said to be Jesus’ last words as a human-embodied person:
And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He gave up the spirit.
Luke 23:46, Modern English Version
The minister said something like, What would it be like to begin each day with this declaration of faith?
But I also wonder: What would it be like to say this in each moment?
A Sufi perspective might be that we die with each exhalation of the breath. Who we were, dies. What was, dies. And to the extent to which we are aware of each moment, to the degree to which we are present and alert, we can let go of anything that shaped or controlled us in the past, and we can become new. We can be, in each new moment, innocent, childlike, free.
If you want to be reborn, you have to die.
Of course most of us don’t want or need to experience total ego death in every moment. But in each moment, we do have the opportunity to die and be reborn. And there are some moments when, believe me, I am so grateful for that opportunity. I tend to take it only in extreme situations. But I think I would be a lot lighter, a lot less encumbered by useless mental and physical baggage, if I died more often.
In some ways I have so much trust in the will of the Divine. Any seeming tragedy or hardship that befalls me – a heartbreak, a loss, an illness, a financial setback, a dream that dissolves into impossibility – even in the midst of my tears, I find myself saying, But it is God’s will, and I am learning so much from this right now. This is truly taking my soul where it needs to go. I don’t know where this dark path is leading, but God does, and I trust God.
The external stuff, I’m often cool with (sooner or later). Everyday internal business, though, is a different story … What am I doing here? I’m wasting my life. I’m ignoring my calling. I don’t even know what my calling is. Will I be able to pay my bills in the future? What if I never write a book / see the world / have children / make enough money to retire? What if I get sick or disabled when I’m old? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but I’m sure it isn’t this. I’m going the entirely wrong way. I’m such a failure.
Into Thy hands, Father, I commit my spirit.
When that verse was read, I thought of diving into unknown waters, leaping head first off a dock into a lake that might be freezing, that might have sharp rocks on the bottom, or be polluted with dangerous germs. This is something I regularly do. Though I can be very nervous, even scared, standing on the edge of that dock, the pull of the water on my spirit is so strong that I know I can’t do anything but dive in. To overcome my fear, or my resistance to leaving the “known” behind, I’ll often invoke a name of the Divine as I jump.
Life can be like this. In so many moments every day, in big and small ways, I resist leaving the safety of what I know from the past. (The future, the moment that’s coming next, is scary. I could die. Or I could experience pain, and maybe I’ll WANT to die. Literally ANYTHING could be waiting to attack me in the moment that’s coming …) Instead of diving with a prayer on my breath into a stream of time that calls my soul inexorably onward, I hang on to the boards and have to be dragged off by the current while I distract myself from what’s happening. Because either way, it’s happening. But one way is exhausting, while the other is exhilarating.
Since Easter is all mixed up with multiple traditions anyway, I’m going to make an Easter resolution — or maybe call it a seed I’m planting in the wet, fertile soil: That I’ll remember this verse, this prayer, this mantra, that I’ll repeat it and try to remind myself of it whenever I’m afraid of the future. I’ll begin now.