practicing resurrection: the day before WELL launches
Getting pneumonia less than a week before my book WELL launches was not on my to-do list. But it happened. I woke up last week with a rattling cough and a fever. I started on antibiotics immediately and rested as much as possible. I drank endless cups of tea and bowls of vegetable soup. And, thankfully, I started to feel a lot better.
My church was planning to welcome me as a new member Sunday morning, so even though I didn't feel great, I got out of bed, got dressed, and made my way to the little Episcopal church I have grown to love.
I was greeted with lots of hugs and "How are you?"'s. One woman who knew I had been ill said, "Sarah, what are you doing here!?"
With a weak smile I said, "I'm practicing resurrection" (a reference to one of my favorite Wendell Berry lines.)
Because I'm somewhat of a grammar nerd, I'm fascinated by the origin and meaning of words. I know from previous research that to surrect means "to rise." Which means that to resurrect is literally, "to rise again."
Feeling ill this weekend reminded me of Togo, when I passed out from malaria on a Friday night, spent the weekend in the hospital, and was discharged on Sunday afternoon.
For the first few days after I got out of the hospital, it was a struggle to even stand up. I was exhausted, and my joints still ached. I was nauseated, and no food sounded good to me. The woman who ran the guest house brought me chicken soup, but even that made me want to throw up. Every few hours, I forced myself to get out of bed and walk to the kitchen for a sip of water before going back to bed.
When I wasn’t sleeping, I lay in bed praying to God for healing and strength. And hope.
“How is it possible that your power raised Jesus from the dead, and yet I can barely get out of bed?” I wondered.
I prayed for God to give me a sudden, overwhelming, blinding burst of energy to restore me to health, so I could get back to work—and then, when my three-month commitment was over, get the heck out of Togo.
“God, you can do this,” I prayed. “Remember the resurrection? Kinda like that. Only maybe just half the amount of power you used that Sunday morning because I’m not dead. I’m just really tired.”
As I was thinking about Jesus rising from the dead, the narrative began to play itself backward in my head, like a movie rewinding. The resurrection, then the crucifixion, then the trial, then the night before the trial, when Jesus was on his knees in Gethsemane, praying, “Not my will but yours” (Luke 22:42).
And I realized that the power that raised Jesus from the dead on Sunday morning was the same power at work in his life on Friday night.
On Sunday, the power gave him strength to rise. On Friday, the power gave him strength to die.
When we pray for God’s power to be at work in our lives, we often want the Sunday morning power. The resurrection imbued with energy and new life.
But sometimes, the power that first needs to work in our lives is the divine strength to surrender.
In Togo, I had to surrender the dream of returning to the U.S. with glowing stories of the miracles I witnessed there. I had to surrender to returning weak, heavy-hearted and sad, with months and months of emotional and spiritual work to do before I could even think about beginning to craft a narrative that made some kind of sense of the suffering I'd witnessed.
This weekend in San Francisco, I had to surrender the idea of working around the clock to help WELL launch as successfully as possible. I had to surrender my dreams, my expectations, my hopes and my well-laid launch plans. I had to remember that this isn't my book; it's ultimately God's. And, like everything else I have, to hold WELL with open hands as I repeated over and over again the words Jesus prayed in the Garden: Not my will but yours.
"I'm practicing resurrection," I said to the woman at church on Sunday.
Maybe you are, too.
For different reasons, and in different ways, we're practicing the strength it takes to lay it all down.
We're practicing the strength it takes to wait in dark silence, trusting that, at just the right time, the stone of sickness and struggle will roll away.
And we will rise.
WELL launches tomorrow! Pre-order your copy wherever books are sold.