Holding the paradox

Imagine the wonder, the fear, the bewilderment and finally, the joy that Jesus’ mother, Mary, must have felt when news came to her that her son’s tomb was empty, that the burial cloths had been wrapped and placed in a corner and his body was nowhere to be found!

It’s hard not to think about divine intervention on Easter morning, especially, but it seems like I think about it almost every day. The idea of “God winks” or synchronicity or fate – whatever you want to call it – feeling like “there are no coincidences” and allowing yourself to believe that there is a hand guiding you through everything that happens in your life – good or bad – is tremendously liberating. There are people in my life who I know did not simply arrive there by accident. There are things that have happened to me, both good and bad, that weren’t just “being in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.”

Thus, our treasured relationship with Chip and Mary can only be considered in this way. I mentioned on Good Friday that Mary had shared a wonderful series of reflections during a particularly stressful time in our lives. It’s a gift that she and her husband, Chip, have been given through years of spiritual inquisitiveness, fearless exploration of what shapes us, even when the answers might be less than flattering or easy to accept. I truly believe that God has given us the gift of their friendship as a promise as big as Easter to show us that we can overcome, we will get through this, something good always comes from every terrible situation, we are never alone.

Consider these amazing words that Mary sent to us during that awful time, sharing her own pain and struggles with us to give us strength:

Right now, the spiritual challenge for you and Dave is to hold the paradox, Kelly. The contradiction that the worst thing that ever happened to your family may also be the best thing. My prayer when I am struggling to hold the tension of opposites has been, “Lord, please help me stay in a place of radical trust…that you are in charge…that everything will eventually be OK…that you will bring some good out of this terrible situation.”

Help. Thanks. Wow. As Anne Lamott says, whatever we are praying for in our lives can be categorized into those three simple buckets, no matter what praise or prose is added to them. And, oh, how happy I am that Mary has been given her gift of knowing just how to say, in just the right way, exactly what God wants me to hear in a way that will make me listen.

Consider also a text Chip sent to Dave and I the other night as we were contemplating the magnitude of so much fear and uncertainty and pain, this quote:

We who run in the way of love shouldn’t be thinking of sufferings that can take place in the future: it’s a lack of confidence, it’s like meddling in the work of creation.

St. Therese of Lisieux

I mean, how is that not a gift? Don’t get me wrong. Chip and Mary are much more than just our personal “layers-down” of truth and knowledge. They also know how to laugh uproariously with us at some of the most irreverent and sometimes even profane things. We never spend time with them without sharing amazing food, generous and delicious drink, and stories to remember.

Mary then shared with me, several Easters ago, a beautiful prayer from one of their dear friends, Catholic theologian Ron Rolheiser. I treasure it to this day and never fail to reflect on it at Easter time, and to share with others who I think it might bring comfort:

The resurrection is not only about

your body being raised up

at the end of time.

It is also, and sometimes especially,

about being raised from

the many, seemingly hopeless tombs

within which you

so often find yourself entrapped.

To believe in the resurrection

is to believe that

there is not a grave of any kind

that can hold you.

To believe in the resurrection

is to believe that

nothing is impossible for God,

and, thus, impossible for you either

–even today,

even right here and now!

May you leave behind you a string of empty tombs.

Thy will be done, Lord. Let it be so.

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