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rising

 

On Easter Sunday morning I went to the Episcopal church near my apartment in Santa Barbara (I moved here from Portland about 6 weeks ago.)  Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows while a choral procession wove its way through the aisles with incense and banners, singing Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

I’ve loved that song since I was a little girl, especially the line, Made like him, like him we rise.

But that morning, the line brought tears to my eyes.  Because I’ve been in a personal slump since I moved away from Portland, feeling lost and directionless and lonely.

The paperback version of my book The Invisible Girls just launched, and while it’s been wonderful to see people resonate with the story, I can’t help but wonder what’s next for me.  I wake up early in the morning and my brain is already racing with questions.  Is that the best I’ll ever write?  I signed a second book contract, but what if the words don’t come?  Is the best part of my life behind me?  What now?  What next?  I’m single and I spend a lot of time in solitude.  If no one else is experiencing my existence, does my presence on this planet even matter?  The questions are so emotionally and mentally exhausting, that some days I feel depleted (and defeated) before I even get out of bed.

The choral procession is nearing the altar, on its way up to the choir loft near the pipe organ.

Made like him, like him we rise.

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A little boy with curly blonde hair is sitting on his father’s lap in my pew.  He catches my gaze and I smile at him, hoping my tears don’t prompt him to ask his father, “Why is that woman crying?”

How is it possible, I ask God, that you raised Jesus from the dead, and yet some days I can’t even get out of bed?  What happened to all that power?  I don’t see instant resurrection in my life — does that mean I’m doing this wrong?

As the service continued, I thought about what it actually takes to rise from the dead.  Everybody repeats that saying, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming,” as if to say that your dreams or desires or hopes are dead, but just hold still in the nothingness of Friday night and all day Saturday, and then at dawn on Sunday everything wakes up and you’re suddenly alive again.

But maybe resurrection isn’t sudden.  Maybe all of life is like Saturday.  

Maybe it’s the space between the death of our fallen world, and everlasting life.  And maybe in that space, resurrection is happening.

Slowly, in darkness and deafening silence, a cell wakes up.  It starts metabolizing oxygen and weaving strands of DNA again. And then another cell wakes up.  And then another one.

Maybe life is more like that — not an Easter resurrection every morning where everything is instantly put to rights and all of our troubles are solved, but a slow, silent, subtle Saturday.

Rarely there are great awakenings — the cancer is cured, the book deal is inked, the dream job is landed.  But mostly, resurrection happens on a smaller scale.  And if we’re not looking closely we’ll miss it, and we’ll descend into despair, certain that we’ll spend the rest of our lives trapped in this tomb.

Made like him, like him we rise.

This week I started to see how God is breathing resurrection, hope and joy into my life.  I took a walk on the beach. I talked with my dad about the books we’re reading.  My favorite TV show made me laugh out loud.  I had a long talk with a good friend.  I worked a 12-hour shift at the clinic and got immense satisfaction from caring for my patients.  I woke up to birds chirping outside my window.  My mom texted me an adorable picture of my niece flying a kite.  I used a gift certificate to buy a new pair of shoes.  I realized I am blessed with things that most of the world doesn’t have — clean water, food, medicine and a safe place to live.

In the miniscule, mundane, moment-to-moment spaces in my life,  I am living.  I am coming to life.

In spite of the tragedies in our personal lives and the world, in spite of the things that go wrong, in spite of pain and hardship and sadness, to borrow the words of Dallas Willard, the reality is that our universe is brimming with goodness.   The world, with all its imperfections, is hurtling toward redemption.  We are on our way to indestructible bodies, reconciliation, life without end.  Our destination is a beautiful place where tears and sadness and pain and hunger and heartache cease to exist.

Made like him, like him we rise.

Our lives are not sudden Sunday morning resurrections — not yet, anyway.  But they are subtle Saturday afternoon awakenings.  Cell by cell, hour by hour, day by day, new life is emerging.  We just have to be humble and patient enough to see it.

Christ is risen.

 

We are rising.

 

Alleluia.

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Thanks for sharing!

10 thoughts on “rising

  1. Thank you for these thoughts. I find myself in a slump often, and I’m sure the being alone adds to it. But I want you to know that what I have read by you always has been uplifting and encouraging. To realize that you go through slumps and fight through those slumps to regain and maintain a perspective informed by faith I think is all the more helpful to those of us who do struggle with slumps because sometimes we need just a simple reason to struggle to get to a better place. So I’m pretty sure more people than just myself read your words and think I know she goes through slumps and somehow manages to fight through them. I think that will encourage a few of us when we struggle with our slumps. Your writings have been a blessing to me. Thank you.

  2. I just finished your book. In one sitting. I LOVE your voice. I LOVE your heart. I know this feeling, like you are only sinking. Really God is there, helping us rise. It’s just so hard to see that those little moments are what lifts. In a way that brings me hope. I will be giving away your book and sharing it.

  3. Sarah, Last Thursday we learned my daughter, Andrea, has breast cancer. Coincidentally I was in the midst of your book and what a comfort it was. Today I woke up with that terrible anxiety and with my faith shaken, but after reading your post I feel God’s presence. I am a therapist, a thinking woman who sometimes questions some of the concepts of Christianity and having a well-educated, talented, creative and beautiful woman like yourself as a Christian role model is a God-send for me. Thank you Sarah for giving me comfort, hope, and faith during this trying time.

    1. Hi, Emily! Thanks so much for reminding me about this post! I read it again this morning and it was just what I needed :)

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