Easter is an emotional contradiction for me. Each day of Holy Week stokes a flaring exhilaration. Slowly I journey through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. But Sunday’s coming. Finally the dry kindling of my fear-pocked, meager faith will ignite from the billows of the Holy Spirit breathing fresh fire into my life. Like the martyrs Stephen, Joan of Arc, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jim Elliot, remarkable saints all, I’m ready to die for my faith. Then the flame of resurrection life flutters, sputters, and finally ebbs. It was Sunday but then Monday came. I’m left sad and disappointed and asking what does resurrection life look like for us unremarkable saints?
“He is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”
On Resurrection Sunday we boldly proclaim those words. But we often fail to boldly live them. It leaves me wondering if any of us really believe this resurrection stuff? I’m not talking about doubting the factuality of Jesus’ resurrection. Strangely I don’t struggle with that. I grapple with believing my own life is resurrected.
Resurrection Life and The Curse of Practical Atheism
R. C. Sproul calls this is practical atheism, where we say we believe something but that belief does not translate into much life change. Many of us also do this with physical exercise or eating healthy.
But more foundational is my—our—making the same weightless professions about Jesus. And I find myself frustrated, disappointed, and angry at us. Sometimes angry at God because the hope I’ve placed in him for healing, deliverance, etc. seems futile. But I seldom do my part.
In my life this practical agnosticism comes from telling myself and being told by too many church leaders that intellectual assent, passing the written belief test, is enough. Despite that after the exam, I dash from the classroom and promptly forget everything.
I need—even want—more, much more than an academic faith. What I need at the start of a new day is joy rather than dread. My soul aches for peace over worry. Can my confidence in God’s love finally conquer my self-loathing? In short, I don’t need an A on the Christianity 101 test. I need transformation. I want to live as if Jesus conquered death and his love for me will carry me in this life and the next.
The Resurrected Life Is not Grandiose
The other problem is that most of the stories I’ve heard about living a resurrection life are grandiose. Stories of martyred saints, selfless missionaries, reformed slave traders, mournful hymn writers, and persecuted disciples are remarkable and inspiring. But I’ll never reach that level, nor, probably, be asked to.
What if God’s idea for living a resurrected life is not this grandiose?
Again what does resurrection life look like for us unremarkable saints? In her blog Ann Voskamp writes, “Resurrection changes a life’s direction. Resurrection reorients.”
These resurrection reorientations can be small, daily movements rather than larger than life visions. Living daily with Christ more than dreaming of dying for Christ.
What Does the Resurrected Life Look Like?
My oldest daughter, Katie, suggested: “What if, we said yes to whatever we felt Jesus asking us to do. It could be as small as a smile, dropping everything to play, [or as large as] buying groceries for someone, forgiving a hurt quickly, praying instead of worrying.”
A simple yes rather than no. From constant labor to occasional play. From a selfish act to a generous one. From worrying what’s next to wondering what God has in store. From grudge keeping to forgiveness granting.
This last one hit home with me. We have long-standing strife with a neighbor. We seldom interact. But when we pass one another on the neighborhood walking trail, her anger rolls over us like a furious ocean storm. A sunny day turns gray. The feeling of being despised walks the rest of the path with us. I think the conflict stems from a graduation party my youngest daughter had years ago. And also construction noise from a patio we installed. Though I’m not really sure.
As I walked the path behind their house after Easter Sunday, a thought returned. Buy them two bottles of wine and write a note with it saying, “Not sure if you are wine drinkers, or like red or white. But these are simple expressions of neighborliness. I expect nothing in return.”
This is a small, simple, though not easy, resurrection life response. For that matter, resurrection life movements are those we can only accomplish by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit. By God’s grace I’m finally going to say yes to Jesus despite many good excuses for not needing to: they may throw the wine away disgusted. It will be awkward being seen delivering a gift by other neighbors who know of this feud.
The Resurrection Life Is Not Timid
Paul encourages his friends in Rome and us: “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8:1–16 The Message)
I remember our kids heading down the “big slide” for the first time. “Catch me, Mom! I’m coming!” This is the picture I get for daily resurrection life. “Catch me, God, I’m living.”
I love and hate the other phrase Eugene Peterson uses here: “a grave-tending life.” Ouch! Our cautious and self-protective measures are not living. They are placing flowers on our unoccupied graves. They are not acts of wisdom but premature grieving. Worry, indecision, living in fear, self-doubt, and procrastination are acts of death not life.
Resurrection life means leaving the graveyard shouting, “What’s next, Papa?”
Paul continues: “And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!”
The Resurrection Life Is One of Expectancy
I recently heard a provocative question: “What if Jesus’ followers wrote resolutions after Easter instead of on New Years Day?”
That idea struck me as a good start. But resolutions fall short of Spirit empowered life. Most New Years resolutions survive only fourteen days. Jesus’ resurrection life has transformed people for over 2,000 years! New Years resolutions are human powered and resurrection life is Spirit powered. But what if we took a similar idea and launched into forty days of asking, “What’s next, Papa?”
So for the next forty days I’m embarking on an adventure of a resurrected life. Daily I’m going to say yes to Jesus and journal the times and ways God calls me to resurrection life and how I’ve responded.
Join me In the resurrected Life?
Also pray my Sunday Psalm of Easter Praise with me.
See how Easter made a daily difference for me in A Funeral, a Wedding, and a Life and Death Lesson in Easter