Grace and peace to you
Resurrection can be terrifying. According to the Gospels, “terror” was the most common response to the news of Jesus’ resurrection. The first responders had to be told repeatedly: “Do not be afraid!” One would think that resurrection would provoke uncontrollable celebration but it was not so. Why terror? I do not know why, but I do know that it is a question worth living with. As Rilke says: “Do not strive to uncover answers: they cannot be given you because you have not been able to live them. And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer, one distant day in the future.”
I am however aware of other resurrections that I experience as terrifying. The first is the terrifying resurrection of stuff that we bury in ourselves. We all have childhood experiences of great significance – often of some trauma or other – buried in the inner recesses of our being. We bury not only the events / emotions but also our patterned coping mechanism in response to the events that we relied on to “save” ourselves. We can continue to turn to these protecting patterns to rescue ourselves each time we experience trauma or hints of trauma throughout our life. As we get older these “saving” patterns become less and less appropriate, for what is acceptable and understandable for a child may be quite the opposite for an adult. What used to protect us may now imprison us. What used to save now shames. These wounds and patterns finally resurrect. The stone of denial is rolled away. They glow refusing to be ignored. It is terrifying to see our own vulnerability and our attempts at hiding this vulnerability, as well as witness the hurt and damage this has caused others and ourselves in the process. This inner-body-resurrection is terrifying but ultimately it is for our healing and liberation.
The second resurrection we see every day bursts out from tombs of poverty and discrimination. The unaddressed legacy of oppression in South Africa rightly refuses to go quietly into the night. Instead it rages against the darkness of unacknowledged injustice and failed promises of deliverance. After 25 years the rage reminds us that the pain of the past is not past. This resurrection confronts our systemic death. Rage is terrifying to witness, yet it carries the hopeful expectation for new life.
Robert MacFarlane magnificently describes a third form of resurrection that is terrifying in his latest book entitled: Underland. Written with the purpose to “actively ‘unconceal’ the traces of our fast-altering world: its untimely surfacings, its entombments.” In a recent Guardian article MacFarlane explains: “We live in an age of untimely surfacings. Across the Arctic, ancient methane deposits are leaking through “windows” in the earth opened by thawing permafrost… [last year] water levels in the River Elbe dropped so far that “hunger stones” were revealed – carved boulders used since the 1400s to commemorate droughts and warn of their consequences. One of the stones bears the inscription “Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine” (If you see me, weep). In northern Greenland, an American cold war missile base – sealed under the ice 50 years ago with the presumption that snow accumulation would entomb it for ever, and containing huge volumes of toxic chemicals – has begun to move towards the light.”
MacFarlane continues: “These Anthropocene unburials, as I have come to think of them, are proliferating around the world. Forces, objects and substances thought safely confined to the underworld are declaring themselves above ground with powerful consequences. It is easy to aestheticise such events, curating them into a Wunderkammer of weirdness. But they are not curios – they are horror shows. Nor are they portents of what is to come – they are the uncanny signs of a crisis that is already here, accelerating around us and experienced most severely by the most vulnerable.”
Resurrection can be terrifying. It can be a horror show. Yet acknowledging what we have hidden buried is ultimately the first step to new Life. May we be set free from fear.