We walked single file, careful not to trip over any rocks as we made our way up the hill. Our two boys ran ahead, then stopped at a fork in the path. We made a right, past a patch of wild buckwheat and up onto a ledge. From there, we looked out over the valley below us: green rolling hills dotted with boulders. We continued on our hike, my husband and I now walking side by side, past fallen trees with hollow trunks, past long-burnt tree skeletons reaching toward the blue sky. The boys found pine cones as big as pineapples, then climbed into a concave tree stump, declaring it a portal into another world.
The sun sank lower into the sky and cast a glow upon the landscape, making the meadow around Lake Laguna in the distance shimmer with golden waves. On all sides, we were surrounded with the vibrant beauty of living things alongside the death and decay of fallen leaves and fallen trees. The one nourished the other in the perpetual cycle of life.
When Jesus steps into our everyday death and decay
No other season highlights the beauty of letting go like fall. We don’t like to think much about death and decay but it happens to all of us – whether it’s a physical death of someone we love, or the death of our dreams, our beliefs, a relationship, or a career. It never seems beautiful in the moment. Rather, we feel the pain of letting go, grieving the loss big or small.
I’d like to think that Jesus grieves right alongside us, in much the same way he wept with Mary when her brother Lazarus died. I imagine it was a comfort to Mary to see this display of emotion. Earlier in the passage, he engages with her sister Martha on a more intellectual level:
“Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” – John 11:23-26
Martha professes her faith in a future resurrection (which was not a common belief among the Jews of the day), but Jesus redirects the conversation.
“I am the resurrection and the life.”
Me. Here. Right now.
Which means that Jesus embodies the power of the resurrection and we have him always by our side through the Holy Spirit.
Where in your life do you need Jesus to be your resurrection? What has died, what has decayed, what needs to be buried? Jesus is our resurrection: he makes things new; he restores; he breathes new life into the old.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:18-19
In the dry and barren places of my soul, God brings the water of life. I need this hope to sink deep into my bones. And I need the truth of it to transform me. Like Martha, I need my faith in the resurrection to be for NOW, not for some far off event in the future.
People who believe in the resurrection, in God making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present.N.T. Wright “Surprised by Hope”
This fall, as I’m surrounded by the beauty of dead things and as I confront the pain of letting go, I’m choosing to have faith in the One who says “I AM the resurrection.” And I pray that my hope will translate into a renewed energy to see God’s new world in the here and now.