“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:8-10.
The closer we come to Christ, the closer we experience life and death. Sounds a bit strange worded like that, but let’s talk about it. We experience life in the abundant life of the Spirit and we experience death in the areas of our lives that still yield to the flesh. Some things in our lives do not yield life and must be put to death to be recreated as something different. This paradox of life and death could be seen in Triumphal Entry celebrated just weeks ago before Easter. Life, liberty, and victory are so near. But so are death, pain and agony. Should we expect to bypass such sufferings in our own spiritual journey? I do not think so. The way to life is the way of the cross.
You may remember experiencing a growth spurt as a young child. The aches and pains in your legs may have woken you up in the middle of the night, as they did for me. At the end of such pain, we grow. My towering stature of 5’7 experienced many such spurts. Or maybe not enough, I can’t be sure. Think about an area of spiritual growth in your own life. How did you learn humility? By being humbled. How did you learn patience? By having to wait. While these sufferings do not compare to the cross, the elemental principle of the resurrection is shown in that death must precede life for life to be victorious over death. When we suffer, we become like Christ in his death. But in being raised to life, we also become like Christ and experience resurrection.
Our spiritual journey must continually experience death in order to proceed to new areas of life. This is the power of the resurrection. My pride must die and be resurrected as humility. My greed must be put to death and raised to life again as generosity. If there is no death of such things, there will be no resurrected life from them. We become stagnant and cease to grow.
It is so fitting for Easter to be celebrated in the Spring. The barren cold of winter yields to the natural progression of blossoming and nature’s yearly miracles. In nature we see a glimpse of our own resurrection, both in the new life Christ has given us and in the new life to come. It is as if creation affirms this, proclaiming, “Christ is Risen!” And our own hearts have risen from the grave and we’ve become a new creation. In becoming resurrected people, we have a new existence for a divine purpose.
In the words of poet-farmer-author Wendell Berry, “Practice resurrection.”