interesting that year after year, even though the Church celebrates Easter
It's certainly easy to understand why people are more aware of darkness than they are of light these days: terrorism, war in the Middle East, drug addiction, homelessness, AIDS, hunger, inadequate schools--the list goes on and on. Darkness seems to be growing, threatening to engulf everything and everyone. What can you do? How can we resist, fight back, avoid the fearful darkness all around us?
John Bradshaw has written a number of very insightful and helpful books dealing with codependence, low self-esteem and incapacitating feelings of shame or guilt. Bradshaw's clinical experience suggests that individuals are seldom able to overcome such problems because they simply don't have the confidence to do battle with their problem, convinced that in such an encounter they themselves will be destroyed. His primary message of advice is to face the issue straight-on in order to conquer it. No matter how fearful or full of dread you may be, you have to summon up the courage to name the enemy and face it.
John Bradshaw, in his book Healing the Shame That Binds You, tells a story that graphically illustrates his point: A man is taken prisoner and his captors lower him by rope into the darkness of a cave-like pit that is about fifteen feet deep. The entrance is directly overhead, covered by a flat circular stone that's about three feet in diameter. He is told that food will be lowered down to him once each day for about two weeks. If during that period of fourteen days he can escape, he will be allowed his freedom. If he cannot escape, he will die. The capstone is put in place and the outside light is totally blocked. In the pit it is completely dark. He is absolutely terrified by the darkness, imagining every sort of terror lurking there, ready to seize him if he moves even a muscle. He hears demons everywhere.
For the first few days the captive despairs of his fate. He is angry and feels unfairly treated. Then he begins to grow anxious, knowing he has only eleven days left to live unless he does something. When the daily food ration is being lowered the light is blinding, but he notices that the floor of the pit where he is standing is strewn with rocks and loose debris. He wonders if he might gather it up, building a mound on which he could stand tall enough to reach the rock above his head and climb out of the pit. It's better, he decides, to do something. Because even if the creatures in the darkness don't kill him, certainly starvation will.
He sets to work with excitement and energy, keeping ever alert in case something should come after him from the darkness all around. Each day the mound grows a little higher. But the work is hard, his hands are scraped and bloodied, and his meager food supply leaves him bone-weary. He is aware that his life is ebbing from him. With two days left he can actually, by jumping, touch the rock that imprisons him. But the effort is exhausting. On the fourteenth day the captors open the pit and find the man dead. He is lying atop his crude eight-and-a-half foot mound that just missed being high enough to save his life.
pouring down into the pit also reveals that about ten yards from where
the dead figure lay, previously obscured by the darkness, there is a small
tunnel entrance--a tunnel leading about a half-mile to the surface and
freedom. But the man would never have found that tunnel because it was
in the darkness and he was deathly afraid of the dark. He was convinced
that life and freedom could lie only in the light, only in the known and
familiar, surely not in the dark and unexplored.
Bradshaw's point is that the answer lies precisely in the dark nowhere else. You have to move into the problem to find its answer. Solutions can't be found in the safety of the comfortable and secure--only in the risky and challenging.
I wonder if you've ever thought about the meaning of Easter in these sorts of terms. Easter is the culmination of God's effort to offer a solution for the problem of mankind's constant and pervasive selfishness. The Bible is a five thousand year record of the various ways in which God has sought to restore the broken relationship between our Creator and us. Once we human beings had decided to "go it alone" by rejecting God's plan for a world of unity, harmony and love, God tried to find a way to heal that rift. The commandments, the prophets, the Covenants are all useless. We sink deeper and deeper into separation and darkness until, finally, God comes among us in-person to go into the deepest darkness the world has to offer.
Jesus literally bets his life. He gives himself up to suffer humiliation, pain and even death to show that the eternal life that God has promised, if we are really faithful, truly does exist---then, now and always. The answer lies in the darkness. That's why we're afraid to follow the pathway Jesus has revealed. We prefer the half-lit vain promise of the so-called life that we already have and know.
Jesus has risen. He has overcome our darkness and death. He has shown the way to freedom and life, but you and I are still down there in the pit, endlessly building our hopeless little mound by which we hope somehow to crawl out of the darkness and save ourselves. Our mound built of possessions, fame, wealth, reputation and pride won't begin to reach to heaven. But we're too afraid of the darkness to venture where Jesus calls us and even offers his hand to guide us. We still haven't learned the mysterious truth he told us, "He who tries to save his life will lose it, but he who gives up his life will save it and will also gain the whole world."
Happy Easter! The way has been opened. The path can be clearly seen. The way is not easy nor is it open to the faint of heart. It take a little courage. But the Good News is this: If you will step forth in Faith, God will always be there to meet you with power.
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