Last week a miracle happened. The darkness that had held my family in its grip for almost five months was dispelled by a sudden, dazzling burst of light. Of all the outcomes we had imagined, hoped for or feared, this was the least likely of them all. And it felt like resurrection, a gloriously unexpected divine intervention, an outpouring of abundant grace. It seems so apropos that it happened during this season of Lent, as we ponder the events of another darkness, a time when the promises of Jesus regarding the Kingdom of Heaven seemed lost, when his death on the cross seemed like the end of a peoples’ hopes and dreams. It is a time when we are reminded of the earth-shattering events of Easter Sunday that turned upside down all pre-conceived notions about life and death, light and darkness.
I think the story of Easter is the story of us all. We have all entered times of great darkness, experienced a death of one sort or another. A former pastor of mine once said, “We all experience little deaths every day.” We know the truth of that, don’t we? The loss of dreams, the loss of little bits or big chunks of self, the loss of relationships, health, or vocation are all deaths of one kind or another. And we make the mistake of believing that death has the final word. We keep putting periods at the end of these sentences, thinking life as we know it is over. But just as seeds are still lying dormant under the snow, waiting for the perfect conditions to emerge, so God lies waiting in our darkness, waiting to surprise us with life and light.
Our God is a God of surprise. I must confess, though, that I’m a lot fonder of surprises at Christmas, when I’m relatively sure that what is held inside a beautifully wrapped package is something I will enjoy. But when a problem package is randomly drop-kicked into my life wrapped in dirty brown paper and emitting a foul odor, I’m not so willing to open it up. We are pretty picky about what we are willing to receive from life. Jesus attracted a lot of people when he fed and healed them, but there weren’t too many followers still lingering at the foot of the cross that held his battered and bloody body. Nonetheless, Jesus rose from the dead, burst from the tomb and changed the world. And even with that evidence of God’s power to overcome all odds and even death, we still doubt.
I doubt. I doubted God’s ability to transform the situation in which my family found itself. I feared the worst. Oh sure, I prayed a lot, and I tried to trust, and I wrote a blog about not being afraid. My problem was that I was thinking too small. I was putting limits on what was possible. My hopes were human-sized, not God-sized. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” God admonishes in Isaiah 55. How is it that I keep forgetting that? Thankfully, God keeps reminding me. God doesn’t let my humanness stop God from continuing to bless me with astonishing miracles. God doesn’t answer prayer because I am worthy. God answers prayer because God is good. And so I give thanks for God’s abundant grace, for the divine love that keeps loving, no matter what, for the Light that keeps overcoming the darkness, for the spring that always replaces winter, every time. I pray that, like the dawn that burst forth in my life last week, God may bring light into your darkness. May this time of Lent and Easter also be a time of little deaths being conquered by Life through the abundance of a surprising and gracious God.