Children around the world woke up on Easter Sunday with the thought: the world around us has changed, and if I look and search I might find hidden things of beauty and sweetness; someone has come and filled the garden with something new…
It is a magical morning…at least for the children. Where do we, adults, find this hidden newness? Where can we discover the renewing Easter Forces, more magical than any egg?
The Tomb in the Garden
In the Easter garden, the place where these forces first began their transformative permeation of the earth and humanity – in that garden, there is a tomb:
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.John 19:38-41
A tomb is an end point. It is the place where we bury what we were and all that we have been. In the gospel accounts we inwardly watch as Jesus is placed, lovingly, into a tomb. We see his life come to this ‘end point’. But his tomb is in described as being in a unique place: in a garden. A tomb in a garden is something different, for what is laid in the earth -what is ‘planted’ in a garden – is a seed. Placing something into the earth in a garden is not an end point, it is part of the processes that lead to new life.
The Tomb in Our Lives
To greater and lesser degrees, we all know these end points in our lives, not just the end point of the burial plot, but the end point of a whole direction of our lives, or what is sometimes called ‘hitting bottom’. There are certainly many small ‘deaths’ on our way through life, but I am speaking here of that very real place we can reach that is nothing less than the death of who we are, the ‘end point’ of our life up until then. And when we are in it – make no mistake – it really feels like the end, like there is no way forward, like you are dying or dead.
Here is one vivid description of just such an ‘death’ experienced by a young woman named, Julia Butterfly Hill:
“It seemed like it took all my will to stay alive. I was trying to hold onto life so hard that my teeth were clenched, my jaws were clenched, my muscles were clenched, my fists were clenched, everything in my body was clenched completely and totally tight.
I knew I was going to die.
The wind howled. It sounded like wild banshees, rrahhh, while the tarps added to the crazy cacophony of noise, flap, flap, flap, bap, bap, flap, flap! Had I remained tensed for the sixteen hours that the storm raged, I would have snapped. Instead I grabbed onto Luna [the ancient California redwood she was doing a tree-sit in], hugging the branch that comes up through the platform, and prayed to her.
“I don’t know what’s happening here. I don’t want to go down, because I made a pact with you. But I can’t be strong now. I’m frightened out o my mind, Luna, I’m losing it. I’m going crazy!”
Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t, but in that moment I hear the voice of Luna speak to me.
“Julia, think of the trees in the storm.”
And as I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me.
“The trees in the storm don’t try to stand up straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go…Learn the power of the trees. Let flow. Let it go. That is the way you are going to make it through this storm. And that is the way to make it through the storms of life.”
I suddenly understood…as I was getting chunked all over by the wind…I just let it go. I let my muscles go. I let my jaw unlock. I let the wind blow and the craziness flow…I howled. I laughed. I whooped and cried and screamed and raged. I hollered and I jibbered and I jabbered. Whatever came through me, I just let it go…Everything around me was being ripped apart. My sanity felt like it was slipping through my fingers like a runaway rope. And I gave in.
“Fine. Take it. Take my life. Take my sanity. Take it all.”
Once the storm ended, I realized that by letting go of all attachments, including my attachment to self, people no longer had any power over me. They could take my life if the felt the need, but I was no longer going to live my life out of fear…I was going to live my life guided from the higher source, the Creation source.
I couldn’t have realized any of this without having been broken emotionally and spiritually and mentally and physically. I had to be pummeled by humankind. I had to be pummeled by Mother Nature. I had to be broken until I saw no hope, until I went crazy, until I finally let go. Only then could I be rebuilt; only then could I be filled back up with who I am meant to be. Only then could I become my higher self.
– from The Legacy of Luna, by Julia Butterfly Hill
What Rises From the Tomb
This new self, born of ‘the Creation source’, apparently could only come into being when the old self entered into a state of chaos, when it let go and became willing to die -and indeed did die. This path through death to the universal, spiritual self that is unafraid of death, connected to all, and of the very nature of the divine, this is the Christian path:
But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practicesand have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.– Colossians 3:8-14You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.– Ephesians 4:22-24
Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.
Julia Butterfly Hill found at the point of giving up, at the point of being ready to die and letting go of her life, her sanity – everything – she discovered that part of her that can not be killed, that is born from the ‘creation source’. All of us can find that ‘life giving spirit’ there, in those experiences, when we lift our hearts up to it, when we inwardly seek that source in the darkest moments. And the only reason that we can find it there is because of the so called ‘deed of Christ’. What was, in the past, an absolute end point has been brought into ‘the garden’. That new life can be found in experiences of dying and death is one of the deepest effects of the work of the first Easter. Death and suffering are no longer an end point. By joining his being with the experiences of death and suffering they become apart of the whole experience of life! And Christ Jesus rises on Easter Sunday as the very meaning of our earthly experience: it will all lead to new life, to transformation, to becoming one with reality.
The Garden and the Gardener
So we no longer have to fear that end point, to fear the tomb and the cross, for they have been brought into the garden. As we learn on Easter morning, the one who entered the tomb has now become the gardener, the one who has placed the experience of the tomb within ‘the garden’ within the whole process of life and becoming. He tends to our becoming, our growing, our unfolding, even when we find ourselves being led into the tomb, into a dying. And the as it says in the Children Service of the Christian Community: he leads us into death, that we may live anew. He leads what is dead into life that it may behold the spirit.