Death and Resurrection
A few years ago I got a phone call in the middle of the night. In a daze I saw that it was my mom calling. I answered it with a tired “Hello?” She then said four words I cannot forget no matter how hard I try:
“Your brother just died.”
The previous day, I didn’t have a care in the world. I attended a concert of one of my favorite bands, my first child had just turned one, and I had some great plans lined up for the Fall season.
With four simple (and devastating) words, everything changed.
My world turned to black, and it felt like there was no escape from the darkness. My outlook on the world was bleak at best. With my brother’s death, I felt as though I too was dead. Not physically, of course, but I was emotionally and spiritually done. I felt as though there was no hope beyond the pain that I was going through.
As we engage in the messy work of ministry, we all have moments that strike us out of the blue. We continually are blindsided by life. Things could be going great and then…
- someone dies…
- or we royally screw up…
- or a relationship ends abruptly…
- or an event doesn’t go according to plan…
- or someone points out something painful about you…
- or maybe you literally get blindsided in a car accident.
Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans.
It’s constantly disrupting our idea of what we think should (or shouldn’t) be happening. But who determines what should be happening?
You? Your spouse? Your mom? That critic in your life?
Every single one of us has a completely different definition of what should or shouldn’t be happening in any given situation. Most of us are wrong. We’re wrong because we live with false expectations of reality.
When I was first hired at my church, I was coming from an internship from a much larger church in the same town. The youth ministry at my previous community had around 100 students on any given week. I knew I was stepping into a smaller group to begin with, but I created this grand idea in my head that I too could cultivate that large of a group at a church down the street. Needless to say, that never happened. For my first few years I was living in misery, beating myself up emotionally, all because I wasn’t hitting a number. I tried anything and everything to grow the numbers of our youth ministry, but it seemed like the harder I tried, the harder I fell. I was living with an expectation that wasn’t real. I had to let that expectation die.
So I killed it, grieved it, and finally buried it.
What I found was truly something I could not have predicted. Through the death of that old thing, something new was born. There was a resurrection of sorts within me. I was free. With the newfound freedom, I was able to lead without the old, false expectations. When those old ways died, even the youth ministry felt different.
Students were discovering Christ. They were discovering passion to serve. Ironically, more people started showing up.
You see, we work so hard to control our lives, but what control do we really have?
You can work hard at preventing natural disasters. Will they stop? Nope.
You can keep your children as safe as possible. Will they still get hurt? Yep.
You can sweat and bleed to make life as “perfect” as possible, but guess what? Brothers still die.
Life will continue to hit you unexpectedly from every direction possible. It will go every way you don’t expect. When we wallow in the things that don’t go right, we’re stewing in death. It reminds me of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. If you haven’t read that book, the land of Narnia has found itself in an eternal winter. They’re longing for spring, but they’re stuck. The hope is far away or gone entirely.
When you choose to dwell in the nasty parts of life, you will lose your hope. You will become stuck. You will be immersed in death. But what we know about Jesus and his story is that the death is just part of it. Resurrection awaits.
Something new is waiting for you beyond the death.
When my brother died, a part of me died too. For years I stewed in the death and misery that comes along with it. I had to finally make a choice to accept what had happened and find new life. And I did. It wasn’t easy, but I uncovered a new, changed version of myself by letting go.
We hold on to so much. Perhaps it’s out of fear or nostalgia or because you’ve convinced yourself of how things should be. By holding onto these habits, thoughts, and practices you are in turn holding your own self back. Some things in your life need to die so new life can be birthed.
What are the things in your life that need to die?
What things are holding you back from experiencing the resurrection life that Christ has called you to?
Christ has invited you to experience hope. Hope cannot exist if you’re stewing in death.
Ryan Schmall is the Student Ministries Pastor at Redding First Church of the Nazarene in Northern California. He is married to his wife Jeanette, and together they have three amazing girls. Ryan is passionate about creating experiences and environments for people to encounter God in new and unique ways. You can follow him on Twitter or read his blog over at iamryanschmall.tumblr.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.