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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: resurrection

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Death

jenmichel@me.com

Death (Today's post is the sixth in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, feast and naked.)

All images courtesy of Joetography.

* * * * *

In anticipation of the release of her fourth novel, Lila, I've been rereading all of Marilynne Robinson's novels.

Housekeeping, published in 1980, is the story of two sisters, who have been serially abandoned. Ruthie, the older sister, narrates the tragedies they've suffered and how they've eventually come under the care (if it can be called 'care') of their mother's mentally-ill sister, Sylvie.

The central focus in the novel's scenery is the lake on the banks of which the town of Fingerbone sits. It's the lake into which Ruthie and Lucille's maternal grandfather plunged by train many years earlier, killing about but two of the passengers on board. It's also the lake into which their mother has driven her car over a cliff, ending her life.

At one point, Ruthie thinks of all the dead people who would be brought to the surface if the lake were dredged. "In such a crowd my mother would hardly seem remarkable."

She continues.

"There would be a general reclaiming of fallen buttons and misplaced spectacles, of neighbors and kin, till time and error and accident were undone, and the world become comprehensible and whole."

"Everything must finally be made comprehensible."

To peer into the lake is to see death. And there is nothing more incomprehensible than that.

Today's word is death.

It has been too much with me, death. I was eighteen when my father died unexpectedly, and the world shifted inalterably, disabusing me of ideas of permanence. We do not last. And even the young can die.

I was twenty-three when my brother died, and there's no sense to be made of suicide. Can a human being die without hope? A cruel and terrible question, one I do not answer.

Death is too much with us.

I see it out the car window, watching them stroll by. First, I notice the elderly woman, managing ably with her wheeled walker. In the basket, there's a tied-up plastic bag from the local pharmacy. I notice the care in the knot.

And then I see he's catching up, slower for his cane. He reaches her, sliding his gnarled, mottled hand over hers. Is it a gesture is to steady himself? A habit of affection he's long practiced?

They smile and talk, lowering their faces as if sharing secrets.

I think of death.

And wonder of my own eventual loneliness, should Ryan oblige himself to statistics. What would it be like to grow old without him? To outlive our marriage? The thought sears, and I pray to be spared.

The foolishness of that.

It is too much with us.

If the gospel has meant anything (and it has meant much), it has reminded me that there need now remain no fear in death. Death is no concluding chapter, no punctuated finale. It will have no last word.

"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery," (Heb. 2:14, 15).

Death had been too much with us. And the God-Man took upon himself its incomprehensibility, senselessness, and haunting fear.

He died. And felt the god-forsakenness of being mortal. And on the third day—

Time and error and accident began to be undone, and the world started to become comprehensible and whole.

On the third day—

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

On the third day—

Hope.

Easter's Hope: What IS will not always BE (And some recommended book titles)

jenmichel@me.com

I have been struggling to bring myself back here. To this blog. I don’t know that I’m struggling to write. Maybe that’s true, too. But maybe what’s most true is that sometimes I’m afraid of the vulnerability that is forced upon me when I come to the keyboard and publish raw, unedited thoughts.

I don’t always like myself. And I can’t imagine that you always like me either.

Writing scares me like that.

When I first started writing, I did it for purely selfish reasons. I did it for myself. I drove myself to the discipline because of my own inner tumult. I had to rescue my thoughts from their indistinct form, and I needed my thinking to take shape.

I needed to understand. And I needed to hear my voice.

But of course that really doesn’t sound all that spiritual, does it? Except if we were to begin believing that part of the process of drawing closer to God is drawing closer to oneself.

What have we to bring to God except ourselves?

Easter reminds me of this. I have nothing, NOTHING, to offer to God.

And God has everything, EVERYTHING, to offer to me.

I tell Ryan yesterday that I think I like Easter more than Christmas, that if there is one day of the calendar year that I cannot live without, it is Easter and its promise of new creation.

Because I am so tired of myself: the jealousies, the indifference, the fragility and fear, and I am longing for the moment of final rebirth, of reconfiguration, when I shall see Him and be made like Him.

Because I am so tired of this world and its perpetual ache. Even this week, I await news of a friend’s death, hating that cancer can ravage the body of a young woman, a mother. This should not be.

But Easter reminds me that this will not always be: me and the world, freighted by our sin and suffering. The first Easter has inaugurated a new order of reality, and it’s the reality of the kingdom of heaven coming to earth.

“The resurrection of Jesus offers itself, to the student of history or science no less than the Christian or theologian, not as an odd event within the world as it is but as the utterly characteristic, prototypical, and foundational event within the world as it has begun to be. It is not an absurd event within the old world but the symbol and starting point of the new world. The claim advanced by Christianity is of that magnitude: Jesus of Nazareth ushers in not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation.”

 

(N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope)

So what is Easter except hope, hope that what is will not always be?

Hope is a certifiable promise of God, verified in history when Jesus of Nazareth gave himself into the hands of Roman soldiers to be executed and three days later, left behind his grave clothes.

I believe in the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Even in those same moments of strained belief, of not knowing where or if God is, it has also seemed that the Christian story keeps explaining who and where I am, better than any other story I know.” (Lauren Winner, Still)

* * * * *

I know that some of you who read my blog aren’t followers of Jesus Christ. And I’m really so glad you are here, humbled that you choose to read.

If you’re interested in exploring the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I want to commend to you Lee Strobel’s, Case for Christ.

If you’re interested in exploring the implications of this historic doctrine of the Christian church (what does it mean?), read N.T. Wright’s, Surprised by Hope.

If you simply want an introduction to the Christian faith (and have some critical questions to ask), Tim Keller’s, Reason for God is excellent.

And if you just want dialogue with someone, feel free to email me: jenmichel@mac.com.