Easter Sunday is the most significant day on the Christian church calendar. Marking and celebrating the resurrection of Christ is no small event; no small thing to try and understand.
What if understanding is not the point? What if it never has been? What if all that’s ever mattered is the story itself?
I’ve been pondering this nearly endlessly the past couple of days – inspired by watching the film version of Life of Pi. The story is enchanting, heartbreaking, and powerful – as all good stories must be. Even more, it’s so fantastical that you want to believe. Did it actually happen? Was it really like that? Could he possibly have seen and experienced and survived all that he did? Does it matter?
These words, from the book:
“I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. You want dry, yeastless factuality.”
“‘So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?’ Mr. Okamoto: ‘That’s an interesting question?’ Mr. Chiba: ‘The story with animals.’ Mr. Okamoto: ‘Yes. The story with animals is the better story.’ Pi Patel: ‘Thank you. And so it goes with God.'”
Do you see?
If given the choice between a story of documentable facts or undeniable meaning, which would you choose? And more important, will you choose? For in such is where faith takes hold. In such is where hope survives. And in such is where love dwells – resurrected and pulsing.
I know: it’s a lot to accept the Burning Bush, the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah in the belly of a whale, and Job’s plight. I know: it’s a lot to accept the Virgin Birth, the healings, the feeding-of-the-5000, the walking-on-water, the death on a cross and resurrection three days later. I know: it’s a lot to accept your own stories of beauty and pain, sickness and health, better and worse, understanding and misunderstanding, poverty and plenty, silence and voice, dignity and depravity, shame and glory, struggle and celebration, hurt and healing, hate and love. But compared to what? A story that won’t surprise? A story that won’t make you see higher or further or differently? A flat story? An immobile story? A dry, yeastless factuality? No story at all?
Believe me, my point (even if only today) is not to have
a discussion an argument about biblical inerrancy, atonement theory or any other multitude of theological premises. These are topics and arguments conversations I love, to be sure, but above and beyond everything else is the story. And that, today and every day, is where we must stay. It is our common ground, our grounding reality, our real (if not only) source of faith and hope and love.
Story is the only thing that compels us; the only thing that really matters when all is said and done: mine, yours, ours…and the one we tell/live/believe about God.
Do you see?
You can choose which story you want to believe; which one you want to have impact and move you over and over again. You have permission to let go of the need to defend or reason or empirically authenticate – even if only today. And in doing so, in making that bright and glorious and revelatory choice, all of heaven rejoices and resurrection occurs – even if only today.
Even if only today, the veracity and “truth” of the story doesn’t matter. What matters is that the story is enchanting enough and heartbreaking enough and powerful enough to hold you captive, to hold you, period; to move you from despair to hope, from darkness to light, from doubt to faith, from death to life.
A story that is bigger than me – and you – is one we cannot possibly (nor need) prove, verify, or make sense of – even if only today.
Do you see?
The Easter Story is invitation to choose to believe, to feel and experience what that makes possible, to cling tenaciously to faith, to hold onto crazy and illogical hope, to trust in beyond-belief love – even if only today. And maybe even more.
“Come and see.”
These were the words a few brave, believing women spoke to the disciples after discovering Jesus’ tomb empty. That morning they stepped into a story that was bigger than them – that they couldn’t possibly prove, verify, or make sense of – ever. And it didn’t matter.
On this Easter Sunday, I’m asking, “Do you see? And like those brave, believing women of so long ago, I’m saying, “Come and see.”
Come and see, even more, choose to see. Live the Life of Pi. Believe the story you want, the story you long for, the story you pray for – for yourself and for our world: one of impossible-to-explain miracles, of resurgent faith, of soaring hope, of life conquering death, of resurrection, of love – and love – and love. And not just today. Always. Eternally. Really.
May it be so.