I’m on holiday in Keswick this week having a well earned rest from a stressful and tiring term at college. I spent last week working on essays and assignments that should have been done weeks before so that I could focus on Holy Week and to spend the time reflecting but there was no time. During the week I met with a friend who I’m at college with who has suffered a great deal with the challenges and the stretching that theological study puts upon people. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a chance to chat as friends and it was lovely to see him and his lovely wife who have been great support to me and mine. We both reflected on the extreme pressure that college puts upon people and the bad habits that it puts in place. We both saw an emphasis on producing work, being changed and no real balance to remind ourselves of what God has done and the great things God has planned. The college experience, particularly this term, has been a tough battle with life. It seems we spend a long time considering Lent and then Easter comes, for one day and then we move on. At college we did Holy Week a week early but never did Easter. So we have done Holy Week, the suffering and death of Christ, twice but Easter only once!
Easter Sunday, arrived and I was in Keswick with my wife, the college community dispersed across the country. We had gone through Holy Week together but we never celebrated Easter. My wife and I woke in a foreign town wondering how we were going to celebrate. I was exhausted after the term of work and my wife was enjoying having her husband all to herself with no work leering over us. So we went downstairs and celebrated in our pyjamas, with a worship CD and Common Worship! It was lovely. We danced round the house singing and laughing. I was struck by how important Easter is to Christians.
Our faith is not just about the cross. It’s not just about the fact that Jesus died but that He rose from the dead. Jesus was not the first or the last man to die but He was the first to conquer death. Our last term at college has been all about sacrifice, dwelling in the darkness and unknown of Easter Saturday, suffering and bearing crosses. I started to believe that ministry was about suffering and preaching that Christ is with us in suffering. I am not denying the fact that he is but we hold onto the fact that he is risen. I want to be an Easter person who, in the darkness, preaches light. Christ came to bring life not death. Christ came to bring light not darkness.
My favourite song of all time is ‘Smile’ by Charlie Chaplin. I love Chaplin and his work. He holds pathos with joy so well. ‘Smile’ captures this so well:
Smile, though your heart is aching, smile, even though it’s breaking…
It can be flippant to just say smile and everything will be ok but the depth of the sentiment is important. Even though life can be really tough and darkness surrounds us, as a Christian I know that ‘Love wins!’ I know that the darkness never overcomes the light. I know that in the end we will all smile.
I want to finish on telling you a little about my wife, who walks with Christ in such an inspiring way. She hates me telling people about her but I think she’s an awesome example of what Christ can do if you let Him.
She suffers from CF, which is a genetic illness that attacks the lungs and digestive system. It produces mucus in the lungs and blocks the air sacs and so she struggles to breathe. She also fails to produce enzymes to digest food so she has to take tablets at every meal. This illness can be a real strain on her and could cripple her life completely. Her routine of drugs and physio can get her down and coughing begins to get tiring after a while! Her life expectancy is not great and she continues to deteriorate over time.
To add to the issue it is difficult for her to survive pregnancy and birth of children and she’d make an awesome mother. There’s the chance that the birth of a child would be detrimental to her health and she’d die. This could get really gloomy to live with; your death always in your face, knowing your own human weakness, etc. But she celebrates life! I have never known anyone to laugh and smile so much. Everyone always tells us that, as a couple, we have so much fun, that we’re always laughing and smiling. It’s true. I’m not boasting about myself because I know that our joy and celebration is all about how my wife reminds me of how great life is. I can be the grumpiest, sullen person to be around. I allow depression to get the better of me and I’d rather sulk than pick myself up and remember the great blessings I have.
God has not cured her of her illness. God hasn’t waved a magic wand to make life a bed of roses but He has given us hope and the knowledge that, with Him, life is doable. Life is a wonderful thing and should not be taken for granted. All around us is beauty and wonderful moments of searing joy. All around us is new life and wonderful gifts. We are not to deny the darkness or to belittle the pain of the world but, as Christians we have a secret, so awesome that we cannot keep silent. We know that although pain surrounds us and it has the power to overcome us, Christ has conquered it and ‘Love wins!’ We know that it has no power over us. We do not need to be afraid. When we focus on the pain and loss too much we can die a thousand deaths but we are Easter people and we know…