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Jump Into the Mystery of Christ: Easter and an Ex-Girlfriend

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When I was around fifteen I became very interested in girls. Before this time, I was only superficially involved with the opposite sex. But at fifteen, there was a girl whom I thought (in my teenage hormonal state) for sure was "the one." The night that we first met at an autumn dance, I could not fall asleep no matter how hard I tried. If I did start to nod off, my sleep was filled with thoughts of her. After a long and torturous night of anxious waiting, I woke up and contemplated what I should do next. I decided I would look her number up and call her. To my surprise, her response was rather cold. She really wanted nothing to do with me. Even though a whole week of my journal, and a drawing, were devoted to her, she calmly rejected my advances. What injustice! I soon forgot about her, until a few months later, we were reintroduced to one another. At that point, the whole situation started again, and I began to see a philosophical purpose to the original rejection. Perhaps we were not ready then, and but were at this new stage. I tried to figure it all out unsuccessfully. Even in this latter time, we never really got along. Despite any advances, it seemed we always grew farther apart. In the end, a friend (and cousin) worked to break us up. His work paid off, and my time with this girl, totally only about 2 months, sadly ended very soon after it began.

Woman Walking Down a Country Road, Black and White, photographed by David Bennett

Ok... perhaps you are wondering, "what in the world does doomed teenage romance have to do with Easter?" Well for one thing, words fail me. They have failed to describe every meaningful human relationship I have had, both positive and negative. And trust me, I am a very word-oriented individual. I can always try: Love, hate, dreams, goings, stoppings, swirls, inclines, plains, valleys, joys, blue, green, sunny days, storms, waterfalls, pitfalls. All of these words describe many of my past relationships. Sometimes my descriptions border on concrete, but mostly I have to use symbolic language. To fully understand what I experienced, you have to hear Neil Young sing "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (on the "Bob Dylan Tribute Concert" CD) and get the rush of conflict and hope I had while waiting to call my first girlfriend on the phone. You have to ride your bike down Woodland Avenue with me in the warm flowering spring. You have to be hiking in the snow at 10:00PM down the dirt path from her house to the road, as the snowflakes fall quietly. In the end to fully "get it," I guess you really had to be there.

And while certainly nowhere on the level of magnitude of the Resurrection, I believe that my experiences here have a lot in common with our celebration of Easter. Let me explain. The best way to describe what I went through with my first teenage "love," and with subsequent loves is "mystery" (Goodness knows most who have been in relationships can agree with me). I could never fully understand what was going on around me in love relationships; I just jumped in. Whenever I tried to conceptualize my experiences, I found the results wanting. Whenever I tried to be too rational in my approach to relationships, the result was utter failure. No rational response could contain or explain what I was feeling. Sure, science could explain the raging hormones and biological processes behind falling in love, but it could never explain the human experience of being in love. If it could, we could eradicate the pains of falling in love much as we have the pains of mumps.

I have found upon reflection that in the most precious experiences of life, mystery rules. We are much better off if we jump into the sea of mystery, rather than waiting on the beach until we have it all figured out. If we wait too long, we miss all meaningful experiences.

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During Holy Week, we are confronted in symbols with Jesus Christ dead, breathless, executed, and fallen. That Friday, the man whom the apostles revered as "Son of God," is lying in a cold and gray tomb of stone. This is for real; His prophecies have come true, and he is no longer present. A friend is gone. A friend betrayed the Lord. Defeat is what we feel. And then, on Easter Sunday, Jesus is alive, breathing, conquering, and risen. He is not simply resuscitated; he has risen from the dead to a transformed body. The apostles do not recognize their teacher. Thomas doubts. Then he believes Jesus is God. Jesus eats breakfast with his disciples. Jesus commissions his followers. He says he will return for them. Judas, his betrayer, dies.

Sun Shining Above the Trees, photographed by David Bennett

Such events are crazy when added together, and pretty crazy even individually. God-in-the-flesh is executed. He is betrayed. He is dead. Then he rises. He greets his friends. He eats with them. Think of the pain, the surprise, and the joy. Think of the violent confusion, the torturous agony, and the elation after Jesus' resurrection. Think of the absurdity of it all. This is why, like the apostles, we can never really get it unless we live it. I guess, "you had to be there." As did I. If we try to rationalize Jesus' resurrection, we remain covered with sand on the beach, looking out upon the ocean of mystery. We must jump in. We must swim in the sea of Christ's mystery if we want to live what the apostles lived. All of the rational explanations for the Resurrection of Christ miss the point. Even those who were there could provide no rational explanation; they simply lived the events and held on for dear life. To think some 2000 years later we would attempt to make Christ's life rational is ridiculous. Jesus' resurrection has never been explainable even to those who witnessed it, and modernism's tools have failed to explain it as well. This is no surprise, because the Resurrection has always been difficult to grasp, and it always will be. It has always been paradox. It has always been scandalous. Quite frankly, I would be extremely disappointed if it were not paradoxical or scandalous. Are not most meaningful experiences in life both?

Had I tried to fully rationalize my past romantic relationships, most that ended in failure, I would have failed miserably. Once I jumped in, and experienced the love, joy, pain, and confusion, I really "got" it. When I listened to Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" after a break-up I "got it." When I walked in the cool Autumn at Stroud's Run State Park, I "got it." Had my time in my past relationships been objective and scientific, they would not have been worth bothering with. Nor would any of the greatest experiences in life such as friendship. Jesus' resurrection is the same way. If we could really explain it rationally, it would be just another cold, hard fact, classified in the back of a textbook, and worth little more. But like most meaningful things in life, we can grasp enough to make sense of it, but we ultimately must strip down and jump in. I had to experience my relationships for them to make any sense or have any meaning at all. Many hyper-rational critics would pain themselves to rationally explain why I have done the things I have done for females, wading through my symbolic language, experiences, and seemingly contradictory behavior. However, if these later critics would simply live what I have lived, they would have no doubt of my experience.

This is what we as Christians do everyday: Live what Christ lived. Through the Church calendar, through the Eucharist, through all of our Christian experiences, we "live into" the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. At Advent we wait for Christ, as did the prophets. At Christmas we see his birth, and at Epiphany we witness even more of his life. We suffer with him at Lent, and die as he dies during Holy Week. And then at Easter, we meet him Risen. By the work of the Holy Spirit, we are transported into the past, and the past is transported to the future. God uses the symbols and signs to take us there. Even while many of us are examining the Bible critically or perhaps doubting parts of the faith, we still faithfully celebrate the liturgy, meeting Christ even when we cannot grasp his fullness. Modernism consistently failed to explain the important things of life, and in many ways swept much meaning out of our lives. They swept out paradox and swept out the absurdities. In the process, they swept out all meaning. Many on their deathbed probably reckon most rational learning as "straw" as they grasp the hand of a loved one. If the universe is meaningless, humans mere atoms, and Jesus merely another dead historical figure, then I want no part of this universe. While Chaos science destroys Newtonian rigidity, perhaps my yearnings from the universe might even be within the realm of science, but that doesn't really matter. I have learned to jump in. "You just have to be there." We all have to just be there. Jump in. Experience Christ. Live into Christ's life. Jump into the mystery of Christ, and make no apologies for doing so.

Last updated 1-10-2005

See also
We Are All Thomas
All About Easter

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