I’m not a huge fan of Easter. Growing up, we didn’t really do the fun Easter basket thing or egg hunting, it was always a “spring celebration” or a “spring basket” because God forbid I should get the Easter bunny and the true meaning of Easter confused. I also always thought church was so utterly contrived at this time of year. I was never into the bearded guy in church playing Jesus, hanging on a cross with ketchup dripping off his torso. I hated the music that was always either utterly depressing or super cheesy. And yet, Easter is the crux of what I believe. I mean, without Easter, my faith would just be worthless really. So I acknowledge Easter in my heart by quietly reading the story at home, away from the masses of once-a-year churchgoers and those who are way more faithful than I am about attending. I sit and try to fathom the depth of what it means and how I should live my life as a result of it. I do this because it’s a holiday and that’s what you’re supposed to do on a holiday.
Let me tell you, Easter has hit me like a brick this year. My dear friend, Will, has cancer. In fact, Will received news this week that he only has a few weeks left with us on this earth. The cancer is taking over. With a good friend staring death in the face I am reminded of the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross conquered death for good. Do not be mistaken, Christ’s death did not erase the searing pain of loss, did not serve to make losing a loved one any easier, but it forever changed things on the other side of humanity. So
as I sit in the daze of confusion surrounding all that is happening to Will, I cling to the fact that somewhere, ages ago, death lost its power. In the middle of this achingly unfair situation that causes me to weep tears of loss, the knowledge of God’s power is what I have to comfort me. I have no idea what Heaven is like and I don’t pretend to. I have no idea if we will see our loved ones, how they will look, what we will do. Will we eat? Pray? Sing all day long? Who knows. But the one thing I do know is that God exists. I believe in him like I believe in the things I can see with my eyes and hold in my hands. I believe that Jesus came to earth and I believe that he rose again even though it’s a crazy story and there are days when my faith goes missing and I end up questioning everything, thinking, “But what if he didn’t? OMG, we’re all screwed!”
I am reading Anne Lamott’s latest book, and I just love her so much. It’s called Help. Thanks. Wow. The Three Essential Prayers and it’s about how those three words sum up prayer perfectly. Anne is real, let me tell you. She just lays it out there without all the saccharine, Christian-y language that makes me hate talking to church people sometimes. She has lost friends to cancer, she has watched them go through pain and suffering before taking their final breath, and she talks about how to pray for them. She says:
There are no words for the broken hearts of people losing people, so I ask God, with me in tow, to respond to them with graciousness and encouragement enough for the day. Everyone we love and for whom we pray with such passion will die, which is the one real fly in the ointment, so we pray for miracles – please help this friend live, please help that friend die gracefully – and we pray for the survivors to somehow come through.
In prayer I see the suffering bathed in light. In God there is no darkness. I see God’s light permeate them, soak into them, guide their feet. I want to tell God what to do: “Look, Pal, this is a catastrophe. You have got to shape up.” But it wouldn’t work. So I pray for people who are hurting, that they be filled with air and light. Air and light heal; they somehow get into those dark, musty places, like spiritual antibiotics.
We don’t have to figure out how this all works – “figure it out” is not a good slogan. It’s enough to know it does.
I got the latest update on Will’s condition yesterday morning and there was something in the email that took my breath away. A person had asked him if he was angry about the situation, and his response was, “No, I couldn’t be. I gave up the rights to my life when I said I was going to follow Christ.” Pause for a moment and let those words sink in. That is why I just love the guy. This is Will. Quiet, steady, faithful, insightful Will.
After reading the words of my friend, I realized that my perspective on my own life needs to change. Instead of thinking of all the things I want to do, instead of focusing on me me me, and pleading with God to let this happen or let that happen so I can be happy in life, that I need to seriously recalibrate and consciously perceive every single blessing as an incredible privilege. That whole “your life is not your
own” phrase has been thrown around for years in Christian circles, but the impact of those words never hit me with the reality they carry at this moment in time. “I gave up the rights to my life when I said I was going to follow Christ.” It needs to be posted on my bathroom mirror. It needs to be stuck to the dashboard of my car. It needs to be tattooed somewhere cool. It needs to be scrawled in letters across the sky. But even more than that, it needs to be written in permanent ink on my heart. It needs to change how I live my (borrowed) life.
So with Easter coming up and with all of this heavy sadness facing my friends and all of us who love them dearly, I contemplate once again what it means to follow Christ. We all stand with Will and his incredibly brave wife, Angie, and we send them love. We will hope for a miracle in the next days. And no matter what happens we will cling to our faith that says death holds no power over those whose hope is in God.
For more information on Will and his incredible story, please visit http://goteamgray.com/. There are many financial needs that Will and Angie have faced and will continue to face over the course of this journey. If you feel moved to donate, please do so here. You can also help in other ways. If you love music, Will has an EP on iTunes, and he also has a song on Blake Shelton’s new album that just came out on Tuesday. Will’s song is called “Do You Remember” and can be downloaded on iTunes and Amazon. And if that isn’t enough talent to blow your mind, Will also filmed a documentary that debuted in 2011 called Broke* about his journey as an artist. Lots of awesome people like Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, and The Fray were involved in this project. You can view the trailer at http://www.brokedoc.com/magazine/ and order the soundtrack here.