I woke up this morning and I thought it was all a dream. I was sure that none of it had happened and any minute now the kids and the cats and you would come tumbling around the corner and into the kitchen. It was an eviscerating thing to wake fully. To realize again the sorrow and the heartbreak that I thought, if only for a minute, had been a cruel joke, a terrible daydream.
That sort of sets the tone, doesn’t it, the way we wake? Whether hurried and late or lazy and caffeinated, coming out of pleasant sleep or a nightmare.
I adulted. Took a shower and got my children dressed and fed, I took them to church. We talked about the widow who didn’t have enough oil or grain, how Elijah came upon her as she was preparing their literal last supper (this is one of the many ways the Jesus story compares to the Elijah story), how Elijah stayed with her and how the oil and the grain never ran out, how that last supper lasted and lasted (because look at us, all of these years later, coming to the table together to be fed in a feast that doesn’t end).
We talked about how Jesus raised the widow’s son, how he made himself unclean to enact mercy. I made notes on my bulletin (which I accidentally threw away), pencil scratches on paper next to a liturgy from the 1789 Book of Common Prayer. I reveled in the Comfortable Words, in the world without end amens, in the way a full choir loft filled an historic space with thankful praise.
I had this image in my mind, gazing at the Lazarus window, of a wood at sunset. And the trees were tall pines and the ground a soft carpet of pine needles, and there was an open grave, all of this dirt piled to one side.
I wonder if all of this is a series of little graves, little deaths, and resurrections too. I wonder if the dreams that I let go of, and you too, when we were about 18, I wonder if those dreams were buried in a tiny grave, in a deciduous wood at sunset. I wonder if the things that keep dying keep taking small parts of us down into the dust until there is nothing left. I wonder what it costs us to choose to rise, to resurrect, again and again.
I long to wake suddenly in the dirt, to spit it out of my mouth, to claw my way toward the light again. I long to leave this grave. And I know that as I rise up, shake the soil and the leaves from my clothes, that I will look about me and see that this wood I thought I had died alone is is littered with graves. Littered with the lives we thought we were meant to live, the dreams we dreamed and the things we thought we needed; that I am not the only one.
I long to walk with you. To take your hand. I want to hear the people singing down at the water and to follow the sound of that harmony through the trees. To be submerged again and to come out clean, resurrected, waiting for the next death, the next grave, the next rising, all the while getting dirty in the trenches of humanity, the trenches of Jesus work – mercy work.
When Jesus touched the bier of the dead man he became unclean. I told Jared that today he basically covered the entire first year of bible, from the Greek for compassion, which means something other than Hallmark cards, to the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible. The Torah (or “Law”) says that touching the coffin or the bier of a dead person renders you unclean for seven days, through the next Sabbath, and that you would not be welcome.
Maybe I am not welcome at the table now. It certainly feels that way sometimes, that I am outside, that I am other, ritually unclean in a way that was not completely of my own making, in a way that I do not want to be. I understand how messy this is, I am in the midst of it all the time. I understand your unwillingness to become unclean, to come down into this grave with me.
I need your shovel though. I need your hoe and your pickax. I’m not sure that my small hands can claw back the dirt on their own, not sure that I can ever come out of this twilit forest, not sure what even lays past the tree line.
Resurrection, I hope. A fighting chance.
A burbling stream to wash the stench of this world off my hands, to wash away the need and the want, all of things that I cannot fix, the problems that I cannot solve. Tall grass to walk through, soft and shady places to rest, a tent made of muslin that flaps in the wind with a simple wooden altar. A place where every word doesn’t make me cry. A table that I am welcome at, a place where even I can be made clean.
I would touch the bier, I would help, tuck up my skirts and take off my shoes to push the pyre into the water where the flames will light up the still water. I will make myself unclean, lay in this grave, because I am trying to realize and to believe that it is one of many.
The sun will shine again, I will wash the world from my hands in the cool water of the stream that I know is not far from where I lay.
It just seems so far away right now, so many thousands of miles.
I love you still, I know that this feels like code.
But there is a wood somewhere full of graves, and some are empty. And we travel through this world being called to seek and to serve, being called to offer justice and sanctuary – being called to give up all that we are and all that we have – and just for today that feels like a very tall order. Just for today I will ignore the call to rise up and to live again as myself.
And there is an altar somewhere, set with simple dishes and with a feast that seems to keep on going, that seems to keep feeding people even where there is no food left. I’ll meet you there. We will kneel and we will sing, we will mutter prayers and pass out this food.
We will live again.