I know, Easter was just last week, a few days ago, in fact. The brass and fanfare, the choruses and lilies, all of it gave me that familiar jolt. The flowers from the sanctuary are still bright and cheery in the homes of church members. Echoes of trumpets and bells still ring in my ear. I was momentarily resuscitated by the promise of life persisting despite death's clutches. The resurrection as the tenacity of joy, the irresistible power and work of love. The embodiment of hope. I was caught up in it all, humming Handel's tunes all day on Easter Monday. And all around I could feel it. The weather starting to finally turn and the wind blowing sighs of relief throughout the streets. The trees laughing and flowering while crocuses stretch to the sky like children after they wake from a bizarre and rare lengthy sleep. The tomb is empty.
But, I still feel empty, too. The world feels heavy with the lingering scent of Good Friday, the darkness, the persistent shattering of the earth beneath, lives and livelihood in pieces on streets, the weeping from despair and sorrow echoes not too far off. Dreams like smoke and ashes curling up to the sky. There’s no need to provide a litany of circumstances and petitions because we all see, hear, and feel the litanies in our bones from the moment the sun greets us in the morning.
There was a time not too long ago when every day I wondered about the life in front of me–all the possibilities and projects strewn about like the children's blocks and Legos and puzzle pieces. It felt paralyzing, sometimes. I wanted to get a ShopVac and clear it all away, and then sit on a bench in a park somewhere and just stare at the sky. But, no. There was always work to do, and responsibilities, and lunches to pack, and appointments to make, and play dates to arrange, and permission slips to sign, and where were their rain boots? Because it was raining. Those days were dark once again.
So I would drive around in a little bit of a haze knowing that just beyond the rain, the sun and heat would scorch the earth. And yes, for sure, though I longed for that heat, I would curse the humidity. As I maneuvered around town, I would catch a glimpse of someone in a dingy camouflage jacket and orange cap late at night pushing a shopping cart full of black garbage bags down Walnut Street. The Interfaith Winter Shelter would be done for the season at that point but it felt like winter hadn’t let go quite yet. I wondered where he would sleep that night.
After another excruciating attempt at putting my children down for sleep–constant negotiations and the never ending requests for one more apple or one more cup of water or one more story or one more back rub or one more song–I collapsed in bed myself. I glanced at the clock to see it was only 9:30 pm. I would get up one more time to check on them because I loved the way they looked when they slept. Desmond slept balled up–his body curled and blankets already twisted around and under him as if he had a brief wrestling match with the sheets just before he gave in to sleep. Like Jacob wrestling those nighttime angels except Desmond would wrestle them because he'd assume they stole his superhero figures. He is extra vigilant about them at night. Oz would be asleep on his side with his mouth open slightly. Cheeks puffed out, and I saw those baby days slipping away too quickly. He tried to grow up as fast as possible so that he could keep up with the twins. He was practically there. Anna slept on her back with her arms wide open, a posture perfectly expressive of her personality. She takes in the whole world with her whole self. I would wait to see their chests rise and fall, and to hear their breathing, and even to see if their eyes would flutter open a little only for a second.
As I remember all this, I look through the lectionary texts of the Easter season. Each time I feel a momentary burst of light as though the clouds have moved aside and I'm awash in a warmth that tells me that summer, and what is good and right, really is right around the corner. But I also feel the angst of the disciples locked in rooms trying to make sense of the sightings of Jesus. Like they’re holding their breath. Like they’re trying to take inventory of the past few days, the past few years, and make everything match up. Like they’re remembering what it was like to be asleep before Jesus came along.
I wonder if each time they see him and touch his wounds if it feels like a reminder of that sun hidden behind the gray. So, like them I want to go back to the former life, what makes sense, and what my mind and body naturally do when I'm trying to sort it all out, fishing for anything that might make sense, but when I pull up the nets they're empty. The tomb is empty.
I'm waiting on the resurrection. It's only the beginning of the Easter season but the lilies will soon start to wilt and the hallelujahs will fade away. The people are whispering again, Is he really the Messiah? And I am mouthing the same questions, too, even as Jesus responds, I'm here. I've got you. The day after began less than a week ago but it stretches into the horizon. Still, I think I see the dawn. Though I barely feel the rays beginning to brush my skin, it is enough. It's enough to keep my heart and arms open, waiting and hoping.
"True spirituality is about keeping your heart space open. It is daily, constant work. The temptation is to close down: to judge and dismiss and hate and fear. If you don't have some spiritual practice that keeps your heart open, even in the midst of suffering and 'hell,' it's easy to end up grumpy and filled with fear and negativity. You have to work to live in love, to have a generosity of spirit, a readiness to smile, a willingness to serve. Regularly check in with yourself, asking, 'Is my heart open? Is love flowing from me? Or am I constricted?'”
Mihee Kim-Kort is a Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister, speaker, writer, and slinger of hopeful stories about faith and church. Her writing and commentary can be found at TIME, BBC World Service, USA Today, Huffington Post, Christian Century, On Being, Sojourners, and Faith & Leadership. She is a 4th year PhD student in Religious Studies at Indiana University where she and her Presbyterian minister-spouse live with their three kids in Hoosier country.
Twitter | @miheekimkort
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Website | mkimkort.com
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