Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Back in college I read a poem by Emily Dickinson that has stayed with me for 26 years. Popularly known as "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers," the poem describes the "members of the Resurrection" as they lie in state while days and years pass them by.
This in many ways is the heart of faith for the Christian. It's a sort of intellectual dishonesty that says, "Yes, I know there is no evidence for God, but I believe in him anyway" or that says "I've been to the cemetery, and I've seen all the bodies that are still there, but I still believe the Resurrection of the dead is coming."
Our spirits may have faith that we will be raised, but in our bones we know a different, much colder and often stronger truth. It echoes through the dusty centuries and past the withered lives of generations past. The dead don't rise, and never have. It's a superstitition to say that they do.
Death is inarguable and inevitable. In its own way, the Lenten season marks this march toward finality, since each day of Lent brings us one day closer to the day the state executed Christ as an enemy to law and order. As for the Resurrection, there is no certainty of that, just a promise that may or may not have been made, written down by people living thousands of years ago who may or may not have known what they were talking about.
While a life of faith obviously requires trusting that promise, I have found it also requires acknowledging the cold realities of death. To do otherwise is to become a simpleton who meets Christ on the road to Golgotha and says, "Chin up, it's not so bad."
Faith doesn't mean looking at an abusive or controlling husband and saying "He's actually very loving and devoted." It does not mean having cancer and insisting that God miraculously has healed it. And it certainly doesn't mean death and suffering don't matter.
Instead, faith acknowledges the grim realities that face us -- the presence of abuse, the corruption of illness and the finality of death -- and sees beyond them, without proof, reason or evidence, not just to how things ought to be, but to when they will.
Denial? Not at all. Just faith.
Copyright © 2017 by David Learn. Used with permission.