Recently in devotions, I’ve tried to tell some stories.
Sometimes these are stories about me: about getting lost overseas, or teenage Liam asking a girl out in front of her boyfriend (accidentally, I didn’t know, you guys, I swear). Sometimes these are other kinds of stories. Perhaps appropriated parables and fables or perhaps, stories from our story – our collective story of faith.
One such week, I retold one such story. The story of an Easter morning walk. A walk of a woman toward a tomb only to discover that she would not find the death she expected, but life and life only. I’ve included the story below for two reasons:
- Because you might be interested, you might find something in my story (which is just someone else’s story that I’m imagining for a moment) that will contribute to or complement your experience of the main story.
- Because I want to advocate the telling of stories more generally. This is an approach I have used in sermons and devotions. Retelling a story, especially the one’s we all know so well. And not just retelling, as they are transmitted through the tradition – but skulking around inside the story, wading into its waters looking for more, looking for new feelings, new thoughts. This can be especially helpful when looking or attempting to illustrate how other people in the story; peoples whose voices may not be heard otherwise, might have experienced these moments. Women’s voices and experiences, for instance, are often omitted or overlooked in the narratives of Scripture, might this be a way of imaginatively capturing and reclaiming their part in the narrative? But it is helpful in more ways than one. Perhaps telling the story is a way of helping a listener connect their inner life, their emotional experience with the words on a page, the hearts that beat between the lines? Perhaps it’s a way of shaking us out of our assumptions that this story is for the person sitting next to us, because we, clearly, have nothing more to learn? Or perhaps, it’s just a way to draw us afresh into the main story, our collective story, our story of life.
So, here’s the story –
An Easter Morning Walk
As she walked through the mist her lungs were filled with the cool morning air, it provided a freshness that was, in her mind, unfitting for the occasion. The dew on the ground seeped through her thin sandals so that she felt the moisture between her toes, an uncomfortable feeling we are all familiar with; that, she concluded, felt more suitable.
She was on her way to deal with death – the great uniter of humankind. We have all and will all experience, witness, deal with death. Everything, in all times and cultures, of all levels of power and prestige, wealth and health, all things that live are marked by death – a consistent, a certainty. And not only death, but decay. Bodies, minds, all created things decay. And it seems that it is decay that we are most affronted by. Decay is what we work the hardest to avoid, to hide. We go to great lengths to ensure that either our dead look like the living, or that we don’t have to look on them at all. She was on her way because of death, to deal with decay.
To expect to see life in the place of death is completely out of the bounds of reason. Death comes. Death is. Death is not. We are so used to seeing life tinged with death that to encounter death not only tinged with life but overcome by it, seems utterly preposterous – a thing of legend, folklore, prank…
She thought he was a gardener – again, a thought full of reason and logic – there are few occupations that make it a habit of been out and about at this hour and a gardener is one of them… but this was not a gardener, this was life.
This was not a man who’s job was to preserve life in fragile creations for but a day or two longer – this was a man who’s being was life, life in abundance, life without end, qualification or limit. Who was not here to tend the flowers of our lives so that we might have it a little longer, or a little brighter – he was here, walking amongst the world so that we might be life, as he is life – life without the sting of death, life without the fear of death, life beyond decay – life deeply committed to this world, because it is not confined to this world. She thought he was a gardener; but he was the garden – life in perfect balance and harmony, in truth and grace, love and peace.
She fell at his feet, fell amongst the morning dew, deep sobbing breaths taking in the fresh air – suddenly the water beneath her and the air around her were not so unwelcome or uncomfortable; it was the very essence, the perfect symbol of the life standing before her. She fell at his feet because she would no longer have to deal with his death and decay. She fell at his feet because her life would not be overcome by death; her life would not be driven by the fear of death, her life would be a life of life – a life committed to life, to celebrating, encouraging, and liberating life. A life that would still know, experience, witness, and deal with death but that would know that life was no longer tinged with death, creation was no longer tinged with decay – death was overcome, creation was restored, life was life once more, life and life only. This was achieved by someone you could mistake for a gardener, one who’s life had gone, but now returned, one who is gone but remains, one who loved and still loves, one who was and is, one who is and is only, one who is one and three, the one who is Christ.