The Answer is Wholeness
It was the darkest hour of our lives. Like so many others who have lost loved ones, we had no way to make sense of the 3:15 AM phone call … the agony that we were a nine-hour flight away from our daughter and granddaughter … even how much this single event would forever change us.
Those who have lost loved ones know too well the hollowed-out feeling of grief. Grief is something that all who dare to love will one day experience. It brings us to that place where we realize the fleeting nature of human living, and we discover the many emotions and depletion that comes from such a loss.
One of our dear members at Wellspring shared a letter that had been shared with her years before when her first husband died. She shared that grief is a hole that is forever torn in the heart of those who have risked loving. It is a hole that will scar and that we can even learn to love, yet one that will never go away.
So when I talk about brokenness, I’m not dancing around the edges of it. In Holy Week, the gospels lead us to that same depth. I have preached this truth throughout most of my ministry: we cannot fully celebrate the light revealed on Easter morning until we have experienced the darkness of Good Friday. It is in that deepest of grief that I was invited into the Good Friday experience that I might be made ready for the joyous good news of Easter.
I have learned to equate the hollowed-out, empty feeling of brokenness with the emptiness of the tomb on that first Easter.
In John’s gospel, as we will share today, Mary had come to grieve. She was feeling her own emptiness when she stumbled upon the empty tomb. Mary was left alone in her grief, even after a brief visit by two of the apostles. And it is in the stark emptiness of that moment that we encounter the resurrected Christ.
It is here that we surprisingly discover that God’s answer to brokenness is the experience of wholeness … when we experience Christ as Emmanuel … Christ who is forever with us. All it takes is looking up through our tears to see Christ right in front of us.
Wholeness, you see, is not about going back to the way things were. Wholeness is about the discovery of a completeness that shows up in a new emerging normal. Fr. Richard Rohr has done much work on the spiritual journey that goes from order to disorder to reorder.
As I think about my life, I know what order looks like. That is the roadmap that I used early in my life to tell me everywhere I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to be and do. Order is about the dreams and expectations we have when we are young.
Disorder then is that which changes your direction. It is often the experience of loss: loss of jobs … loss of physical abilities … loss of loved ones. The roadmap of my earlier years was then torn up and scattered on the floor. I found myself lost in those moments without clear direction. Throughout my ministry, I have also encountered those who, because of early loss in life or because of childhood trauma, have never even had a roadmap. All they have experienced is disorder.
Then I have experienced those moments of reorder. It is the new way of seeing … the new opportunities … the new life that begins to form. This is perhaps where we can begin to see God at work opening up new jobs … new opportunities … new relationships that lead us to an ever-deepening wisdom. It is where God invites us to move through our trauma, our grief, and our pain to the incredible experience of this new life that is beginning to emerge. It is the gift of wholeness.
It doesn’t mean that we won’t experience grief or pain in the days ahead. It does mean, however, that we can trust God to walk with us through each new phase of disorder, grief, and brokenness until we experience that Easter hope that can never die.
So on this Easter day, my friends, may this Christ be made known to you. May the brokenness be filled with wholeness. May the darkness of death be met with the light of resurrection.
Lord God, may the emptiness we experience be transformed by your love to the emptiness of the tomb in which we discover the joy of resurrection. Amen.