Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is the Resurrection For Real?

A blog I follow recently raised the question: Is the resurrection for real?

They asked a number of different people to respond in 100 words or less. I wasn’t one of them; but here’s my take anyway. I’ll summarize in 66 words below and then expand on it below…

Is resurrection for real? YES. Can I “observe” it directly? NO. Can I explain all the details of how it worked? NO. Does not seeing and not being able to explain mean something isn’t real? I don't think so. In fact, maybe that's partially the point... The best evidence of resurrection power is the impact it has had on my life and the lives of others.

There’s an analogy I have been thinking of recently: gravity. I know some of the science of how gravity works but I can't explain all the details. (There are physicists who can explain much more details than I can, but to this day there remain mysteries about how fundamental forces like gravity work that no one can explain.) Nevertheless, I don't reject gravity's reality simply because I can't explain all the details.

The main way I know gravity is real is that I experience its effect on my life every single day—e.g., I remain firmly planted in my chair as I write this. My experience convinces me of the reality of this fundamental force of nature.[1]

For me, the reality of the resurrection seems similar. Is it a fact of history? Probably. But exact details are hard for me to know. Each Gospel tells the story a little differently; some details appear inconsistent. However, there seems to be enough evidence for me to say that something extraordinarily real happened on that first Easter.

But at the end of the day resurrection is kind of like gravity. We can't "observe it" directly; none of us were there. We rely on the testimony of New Testament authors[2] (the Gospel writers and Paul) and stories and letters aren’t meant to spell out all the details. We're left with unanswered questions. Some see that as a problem; I do not. A little mystery and intrigue doesn’t bother me; it gives my God-given creative imagination room to roam and speculate about what else was going on that’s not written down.

I would argue that, like gravity, the "reality" of resurrection is seen every day of our lives by the impact it has on "objects" that come in contact with it.

When resurrection (the Risen Lord) is encountered the trajectory of our lives is fundamentally altered. We can list so many examples: Jesus’ disciples, Paul, Augustine, John Wesley, myself; the list goes on. Even the very creation itself is changed by resurrection power—it unleashes the vision of a world restored to what it was meant to be.

Sometimes the change can be quite dramatic, other times, as in my own life, it’s more gradual, but sooner or later when resurrection power gets a hold of you it changes your life.

So all that to say, that, yes, I believe the resurrection is real! I look back over the last few years of my life and I don't know where I would be if I didn't believe in resurrection and its power. I know people survive life without that belief but I have to say I am not sure how they do it.

Life has dealt my family some hard blows, perhaps none harder than losing our infant daughter two days after her birth nearly three years ago. My wife and I have experienced some of the darkness and despair that the first followers of Jesus must have felt when their beloved teacher and friend lay dead on Saturday—each in our own unique ways. But I would say that we’ve also experienced glimpses of resurrection power that have helped to sustain us when the going gets tough. We have been able to persevere because, deep down, we believe that in the end that power will triumph. A popular song has resonated with me in recent days; the first line speaks volumes: After the last tear falls, there is LOVE. Indeed…

Maybe the best proof of what we believe, and the best tribute we could offer to our daughter, is that my family strives to live each day in hope. We want to play our part in bringing about the future God dreams of for our world. We each seek to discover and become the person God has created us to be, my wife as pastor and me as her spouse—and aspiring writer. We want to encourage and support one another in our pursuits and also encourage our children to discover and pursue their gifts.

Along the way, in the midst of a hectic and busy life, we try to find moments for our family to simply have fun—to laugh together, to love together, and hopefully, to live life to the full. Sometimes joy—which I confess I sometimes struggle to experience—sneaks up on me and surprises me. I am thankful for that and I hope it is a more frequent visitor in my life.

I find comfort that Hope is already experiencing the fullness of that resurrection power. What I see dimly and experience indirectly she experiences directly and fully. And I don’t know how it will work, but I believe that someday we will experience it together…

I’m not a big visions guy; that’s more my wife’s department; but I sort of have this recurring picture of a little girl running to me. I don’t know how I'll know it's Hope—probably because I’ll recognize her as looking like her identical twin sister [see photo].

Anyway, she’ll run to me and say: “Daddy! It’s so wonderful that you are finally here. There’s someone I want you to meet! He’s been waiting a long time to meet you in person…”

Then in an instant every fear, anxiety, and insecurity will disappear and I will finally know beyond knowing that “I did have what it takes to make it…” I’ll enter into the presence of God and experience the unbridled joy that so often eludes me in this life. Reunited with Hope and perhaps with others who have gone on before me, we will respond the only way we can; we will bow down and worship the one who trampled over death by death. But this worship won’t be an “endless church service”; it will be living life as it was meant to be. It will be like the culmination of a dream, only it will be reality—as real as real can be.

[1] As an interesting aside, NASA (for whom I work) has an Earth Science mission called the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). That’s an interesting acronym choice isn’t it? Gravity is a fundamental force of nature and grace is a fundament aspect of God’s character as revealed in Jesus—the resurrection is really all about grace overflowing. Both gravity and grace are “invisible qualities” that can’t be measured directly, but their “impact” on the Universe is undeniable.

[2] And we would do well to remember that even these witnesses weren’t direct observers of the events they describe.

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