I’ve been thinking of how to put a bow on my Lenten affirmations. I will say that it has been the most meaningful discipline I have undertaken in a long time. Something in my brain fundamentally shifted by affirming myself and being grateful for the things in my life. I was changed by this Lent in a way that I’m not sure that I fully understand. I am looking at the world with different eyes.
But what can I say this Eastertide? What does the resurrection say to me as one who is growing in love for himself in order to love the world more fully? The answer is simple, but it requires a higher christology (Understanding of who Jesus is) than I usually have. But then again, maybe it doesn’t…
Simply put, the resurrection as it is understood in Christian thought is an act of self love. Certainly we can talk about the distinct persons of the Trinitarian community. The “Father/Mother” loved the “Son” and raised Him from the dead. But In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus spoke intimately of his connection to God, particularly in John’s gospel. Seven times Jesus claims I AM status, the same “name” that God gives for God’self to Moses via the non-burning bush. The author of Colossians calls Jesus the image of the invisible God. The Nicean creed speaks of Jesus being “homoousios”- of the same substance- as God. So Jesus is made of God stuff. And God didn’t want to see God stuff dying and dead. The resurrection was God removing the dead parts from God’s self, because God loved God’s self. The resurrection is actually a radical commitment to removing death first and foremost from One’s self. We wouldn’t call the resurrection selfish. If there is an opportunity to remove death from one’s life, why not take it? It is the most loving thing to do.
I have found that the most loving thing that I can do for myself is to remove from my life those things that feel to me like death. Not hard things. Not challenges. Death things, things that don’t affirm my worth, things that make me feel shame and guilt. Things that tell me that I’m not good enough. Things that tell me that I’m unworthy. Some of those “things” are relationships. It’s not to say that those people were death or that they were killing me, but that the ways I viewed myself in relation to them were toxic to my health. Some of things are habits. There are ways in which I slowly kill myself each day either by what I do or by what I leave undone. To recognize those patterns and to consciously work on breaking them is, for me, a practice of resurrection.
My goal here is the goal of Easter. It is the goal of life, lived freely, abundantly, fearlessly, and openly. I desire this because a life lived this way is a life lived towards others and allows me to see the image of God in them. You see, when I see God in others, the God in me acts with self interest. The God in me desires to see death removed from those who also carry the image of God inside of them because God loves God’self. There have been times in the last year or so where others have had to break relationship with me to remove the death from their lives. I grieve that, but I understand it. We should be actin in a way that removes that which is dying from the lives of others.
Yesterday, months and months of community effort resulted in the closing of a nuisance bar. This establishment had served underage patrons with frequency which lead to all manner of lewd behavior in the surrounding communities. That establishment was death in the community and I have spent much of my work life in the last two weeks taking up the fight that had been going on long before I arrived in Baltimore to see this life sucking business shut down. The pronouncement by the liquor board that refused to renew their liquor license felt like a proclamation of resurrection.
In a world where police deal death to black bodies, extreme scrutiny of the police state is an act of resurrection. In a world where Trans people commit suicide or are bullied to death on the regular, protection and inclusion of our Trans family feels like resurrection. In cities where schools are closed and discounted as “failing”, tutoring and after school programs feel like resurrection. In homes given citations because widows can’t afford to make repairs, new drywall feels like resurrection…
And in the self-loathing mind of a depressive, abuse victim, affirmations of his (or you know, “her”) own worth feel like resurrection. Because resurrection is about self love. God’s love for God’s self. And the God in me sees the God in college kids who party on York Road and wants to remove the death from their life. The God in me sees the God in the black boy gunned down and wants to see death removed from his neighborhood. The God in me sees the God in the policeman and wants death removed from his problem solving toolkit. The God in me sees the God in the person whose sexuality or gender have been sources of persecution and wants to see them be freely who they were made to be. The God in me sees God in the struggling student and the anxious widow and wants them to be treated with dignity.
And the God in me, sees the God in me and says “Rise! Rise from your self doubt, and self loathing! Rise from your fear and and anxiety! Rise from your past failure and shame! Rise and be the father, friend, organizer, pastor, community member, artist, lover, partner you were meant to be! Rise and help others to do the same cause that’s what you do! That’s what God does!”
As I’ve been wrestling with this post this week, this song appeared came through my iTunes. Thank you Kendrick Lamar. There’s something about a black man singing “I love myself” that is incredibly uplifting!