Spending time away from California reminds me that things die on a regular basis.
A couple of weeks ago in Washington, D.C., I walked past a house with a bunch of pots in the front yard. Inside each pot was a dead plant, and I thought, “Why doesn’t this person remove some of these dead plants?” Then I looked around and remembered that this is what all plants look like in much of the world at the end of winter.
One of my least favorite parts of the Lenten and Easter season is this whole death and resurrection business. I’m OK with resurrection, but death—not so appealing. Do they have to go together? Couldn’t we all just agree that resurrection is far more pleasant and skip straight to that part?
Pretty much all of creation appears to answer no to that question. Nothing lasts, from flowers to humans to solar systems.
But this existence of ours also answers that death is not possible without resurrection. From stardust becoming humans to compost becoming next year’s garden, there are no permanent ends, only transformation.
I’m not trying to reduce Easter to the turn of the seasons. I am suggesting that separating death and resurrection is pulling apart two steps in a single process. Death is not a thing in and of itself. Death is step one of resurrection.
I suspect this is not going to make the small deaths that we endure as we grow in this life more fun. We won’t all be clamoring to go on the death ride at Disneyland (well, unless it’s really good). The peeling away of layers of our ego, the very real loss of health or dreams—we may or may not be able to weather these more gracefully knowing that they are not permanent. After all, as Jim Finley says about the Crucifixion, Jesus did not handle it well: he sweat blood, he felt abandoned.
So why does it matter that our endings and letting gos, our transformed re-emergence and everything in between are part of a whole? Because that means we are always, regardless of our present circumstances, heading toward Easter morning.