In The Dying, The Rising

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Text, 12:06 AM: “I miss you so much. Are you able to see the same moon that I’m looking at now?”

I have been wanting the silence and, in many ways, my desire for it over the past couple months since we last spoke has only deepened. Things feel louder than they ever have been before. People have become far meaner than they were in May. Many more have told me to go to hell since I walked alongside the tree stuck in a fence. Like many of you, I’ve wandered into some deep forest of myself. Found a way to take each day one at a time. I’ve found plenty of joy and plenty of pain.

It was when I speeding down I-25, windows down, blasting Folklore and then, a playlist of Christian songs for the lamenting praise, that I remembered, in authenticity, the joy of speaking. More than likely, I will want the silence again tomorrow, but for tonight, I have awoken under a blooming spring tree and it’s time to lean into the hope pollen pollutes into our stiff joints.

My 2020 song has been Alive and Breathing, mostly because I know someone who is struggling with living and breathing and, for all the things I am lacking, I have these two: life and breath, at least for now. The question becomes what we do with in while we have them. There are many parts of this song that have encouraged me and spoken newness into me in a time where everything feels dead and buried. I want to speak now, though, about the bridge:

In the dying, the rising

Let it praise the Lord

Alive & Breathing lyrics © Be Essential Songs

I love the “it” portion. The dying praises and the rising praises. We, the dying, do not praise; the death itself does. We the rising do not praise, the rise itself does. In listening to this in my car, I was reminded of another song, this one from my time in campus ministry, sitting on carpet squares and threading fairy lights along the floor. I asked Siri to play me Rise by Housefires. I’ve always thought I would like this song played at my funeral when that day arrives.

The bridge and tag alternate in repetitious cries:

I’ll see your goodness in the land of the living.

Heaven is all around us.

Rise lyrics © Rebellious Vibes, Housefires Sounds, Kaplemusic

I’m struck by how right that first sentence is. How often is our sight blocked by the reality we find ourselves in? There is a pandemic that isolates us and kills us; there is no goodness, at least, not that I can see. And this virus has taken far more than our concerts and our paychecks; it’s taken the way we see and communicate with our siblings and our neighbors. The best we can do, the least awful wrong, is no longer enough. It has to be perfect, the best right, which, in a world where thousands of people die everyday, doesn’t seem to exist, or, if it does, is elusive. There’s not goodness I see on the earthly plane of disease we find ourselves in. And what about systems of oppression? Is there goodness somewhere in the smashing of necks into concrete? In war-zones in countries of peace? In Leukemia? In comas that trap our loved ones in places between spaces? If there is, I haven’t yet found it.

But have courage: we don’t need to see the goodness now to anticipate its arrival. I will see your goodness in the land of living. In 1st Thessalonians, when Paul reminds us that we do not live as those who have no hope, I have to remember that having hope can, at the same time, feel like hopelessness. We can feel the weight of hopelessness now because there is some level of hope that is out of our reach. We are still in the valley of Sheol. There is hopelessness, an inescapable loneliness inside. Yet, we’ve seen behind the curtain enough to know that we will one day see the fullness of Hope’s face.

We will see Goodness in the land of the living. And the news gets better.

The tag reminds us that heaven is all around us. It is still inaccessible, we can’t place ourselves into the land of the living while living in the land of the dead, but we can feel it, no? We can see it. We can taste its breath on ours.

I’ve seen this in the way a cashier’s eyes crinkle when they’re smiling underneath a mask.

I see it in the way my nephew digs in hands into fresh dirt because the only thing he sees under his nails is possibility.

I felt it when a friend told me she missed me and asked me to look at the moon while she looked at it. The world feels so vast and complex. It feels so hateful and divided. And yet two people can stare into the same dimpled cosmic being and shrink the sky from 2,000 miles away. We all sleep under the same light. How different, how unlovable to each other, can we really, truly be?

Tell me I’m going to hell and the dying will praise the Lord. Tell me I am full of glorious goodness and the rising will praise the Lord. I do not see goodness in the land of the dying but I know I will see it in the land of the living. When I squint my eyes at the pale whiteness of the moon’s scarred body, I think I see my great-grandmother’s mouth whispering into the ear of my God. I think I see the coming of a Kingdom. I think I see the destruction becoming holy.

It’s all around us; we just have to look. And if we can’t look now, all we have to do is know someday, some way, we will see.


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