As we approach Easter Sunday, our Director of Parish Social Ministry, Scott Cooper, offers the following reflection on "understanding":
“For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” The last line from Easter Sunday’s Gospel. Even as the story has unfolded, with disciples seeing with their own eyes that the stone has been rolled back and the burial cloths set aside; even as John tells us they “saw and believed.” They saw and believed, but did not yet understand.
Ringing any bells? God is indeed good that my belief does not rely on my understanding. As my wife will attest, I barely understand the technology we use in our home. If my faith in a God of life over death depended on my ability to understand the resurrection – “understand” in the way we usually employ that word, to rationally and clearly grasp the meaning, subtleties, and implications of a thing – then I would likely be in a darker place. A weight is lifted as I reread that passage. I can set logic down and instead “see and believe,” which is to say, know with my heart.
Layla* is a Middle Eastern immigrant who has been my client for a few years now through a grant for people struggling with cancer diagnosis and treatment. Often when she calls, usually asking for help with groceries, her voice conveys a depth of fatigue that is hard to hear. On those days, I know that her difficult treatments have the upper hand. This week, though, she called concerned about relicensing her car, which is her means of traveling to specialized medical care on the other side of the state. The regional toll system (unfamiliar to us small-town Spokanites) had tagged her car several times over the months on toll roads without the toll transponder to pay the way and now she had significant fines to be addressed before she could renew her tags. I could have used grant funds, but instead spent my afternoon on the phone with bureaucrats – helpful bureaucrats, to be sure – advocating for her. The result was forgiveness of the fines and a clear pathway to renewing her tags, which meant, to her, continued access to care. I could hear the smile in her voice.
I do not understand how God consistently and persistently works toward resurrection, makes life happen where before there was death. The mystery of this brings me peace because I do not have to understand it. I cannot begin to understand how some of our clients emerge from despair and trauma into stability and hope. I cannot begin to understand how God will make us whole from the losses we suffer in our own lives, losses that mark us for the rest of our lives. At my best, I go to Easter to see and believe, but not to understand. We see that God’s ancient pattern of life from death, light from darkness, is THE pattern. We will spend our lives learning to see and live this pattern, sometimes failing, sometimes doubting, always being human.
May your celebration of Easter be joyful; may you be confident in God’s great love for you, occasionally giving yourself permission not to need to understand the how and the why of it.