By the time you read this, I’ll be 27 years old. It feels momentous to me, though I know I’ll laugh at myself when I’m 37, 47, etc. But I feel like adulthood gets less sure every year, as I realize a little more that I’m not suddenly going to pass into this company of grown-up people who Know Things. I’ve known this for awhile, on some level at least, but… still. What if I never Know Things? What if the world gets no clearer as I go? What if… this is the most secret fear… what if life sort of lurches between terrors and tragedies, illness and pain, until finally the insurmountable pain comes, and I am lost within it?
Ok, I realize this is a bit dramatic, and even writing that out seems odd. Everyone else deals with this mortality problem, and this pain problem, and this mystery problem, right? But… how?
It’s Easter time. We just passed through several crucial God-moments that I can’t even begin to understand, though, except for the last, they are organized around fairly recognizable events. Eating. Washing. Suffering. Dying. And then the last, totally unrecognizable—Rising. We get everything at once–LifeDeathLife—Boom!
I know neither what it is to die, nor what it is to rise. I have such a small circle of experience, which I hold up like a lantern, casting its little light shadow around me, and the rest—so dark. Impenetrable. So, it is true, I require stories to stretch my circle wider. Especially stories that knit the mystery of what I feel to the mystery of God, to cosmic vastness.
Why the cross? Because we are horrified, I think, because we recognize the horror that is palpably present, sometimes on TV, sometimes in our homes, sometimes in our skin, always in our stories. Because I am so, so afraid of dying, and even more afraid of being in pain, and even more afraid of staying always uncertain, never reaching my consummation. Because I do not know how to lift my head if that horror simply remains, hovering, unredeemed.
The resurrection, frankly, is the harder thing to understand. How many paintings have you seen of it? Less, right? How many theatrical portrayals, how many movies? Less than of the cross. Who wears a risen Christ around her neck, an empty tomb, a mysterious half-recognizable someone with mysterious glorified wounds?
I am almost 27 years old. I am carrying and being carried by time, but it leaves me no certainty, not even a certain, constant self. I am crippled by small hurts, dazzled by petty failures, left breathless by loneliness and cruelty no bigger than the palm of my cupped hand.
And somewhere beyond the light I hold up with my trembling hand, I try to believe my God is dancing. Dancing on real feet with real holes. Calling me to smile, to remember, to tilt my head up and find myself free despite it all. And look around me, at the others, at you, traveling like me, in time and uncertainty, and, sometimes, pain. So many of us. Take my hand. Here. Shall we go together, a little ways? It is so much scarier than I imagined… Shall we join the dance?
Rebecca Fullan sometimes suspects that her redeemer lives. She also has a cold, and is half-enjoying the loud dance music outside her window, and fully enjoying the pleasant spring breeze.