I remember when Sarah was a newborn; it was only a year ago, the day before Palm Sunday, and one week before Easter.  Her birth was bittersweet to me – bitter in the loss of being pregnant, and sweet in welcoming her little life into this world and our family.  All of my life I have resisted inevitable changes.  In fact, I will be so brazen as to admit I despise change, even though I know every day invites newness into my life.  I’ve come to understand why I’ve wrestled with the transfer from the old to the new, and it’s quite simply because I lived my childhood in fear of nearly everything: the unknown, the dark, heights, spiders, and, yes, change.  I fruitlessly attempted to control my surroundings as a child, to envelop myself in the cocoon of my bedroom – door closed, a quiet corner of security and serenity that I could call my own and, with certainty, remain unscathed and left alone.

But naturally, life happened as I grew up, and God gently coaxed me out of that pitiful shell that deceived me into believing that life could be safe and easy somehow.  But the truth is, real living is never easy.  And God gently tugged on my heart, beckoning me to follow His plan for my life instead of controlling my own destiny.  I fought Him for years like an toddler throwing a tantrum when she doesn’t get her way: kicking, screaming, biting, hitting – all of this metaphorically speaking, of course.  It was all happening within my heart, a kind of silent war being waged, and the battle was between my self will and God’s will.  Sadly, it took over thirty years for me to finally surrender the reigns to God, and it didn’t happen until weeks following Sarah’s birth.  

I recall lying on the couch in our living room, still sore and exhausted from the cesarean, sobbing angrily at God.  It was at night when I was alone and Ben was upstairs, since I wasn’t entirely in the clear to walk up and down stairs.  It seemed similar to when the angel wrestled Jacob in the Old Testament; I was wrestling with the only One who unconditionally loves me and desires good for my welfare.  But apparently it was necessary for me to reach the point where I was weary from fighting, where I had not given up but rather, given over everything to God: my hopes and dreams, my fears and worries, the darkness of uncertainty, the abyss of the unknown.  And when I did, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle anyway, but since I couldn’t have my way, the next best thing (in my mind at the time) was God having His way.  It didn’t occur to me that God’s way is the best way, because I never could seem to fully trust in His plans for my life; in fact, every time I loosened my grip on my will as a child, God seemed to lead me in a direction I didn’t desire to go.  

Since music speaks to my heart in a way that mere words often cannot, I was thinking of the Simon & Garfunkel song, I Am A Rock, the lyrics of which perfectly illustrate my own personal struggle while in spiritual captivity:

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,
But I’ve heard the words before;
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

I not only lived this fallacy, but I also believed it; I truly believed that, if I sheltered myself from the world, I would in turn, protect myself from hardship and pain and rejection – all of which I couldn’t bear to face.  Thankfully, through God’s grace, I slowly began to unfold like a flower’s petal in the fresh dawn of springtime.  There were moments in which God thrust me into uncomfortable situations, where I had to face my fears, and there were times I chose to face them, all the while retreating back into the safety of my “known” and “visible” world afterwards, of course.

But when Sarah was born, I had no choice but to alter my life, not just an isolated circumstance.  I could either embrace the life I was given and accept it was truly a gift and grace from God, or I could crumble into bitterness and succumb to the temptation of the darkness; in those bitter and angry tears, I chose redemption.

The Resurrection is about change; the empty tomb signifies not only that Jesus is alive, but also that grieving over the finality of death is no longer necessary.  The Resurrection is an invitation for all of humanity to choose eternal life instead of the grave.  But this choice necessitates transformation from who we once were to new life in Christ.

Consider the poignant perspective of Pope Francis on this transformation:

The women [who go to the tomb] continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb.  But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life…Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life?  We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do.  Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us.

Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives!  Are we often weary, disheartened and sad?  Do we feel weighed down by our sins?  Do we think that we won’t be able to cope?  Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up…

It is true that loving others often hurts, and we risk rejection when we choose to love those who are most difficult to love.  But in so doing, something radical occurs within our own hearts, a mystical transformation that leads us closer to the Heart of Jesus.  I have come to learn, especially by having two precious daughters with very different special needs, that the most challenging and difficult aspects of our lives are precisely what build our character for eternal life.  Nothing in life that’s worth anything can be obtained easily.

Ponder:  Am I willing to alter my life so that the Resurrection isn’t just an historical event that occurred nearly two thousand years ago?  Am I able to face my fears in order that I might grow in fortitude, perseverance, and temperance?  Do I trust God enough with the darkness in my life so that I may one day be given a life better than I could possibly imagine?

Pray:  Jesus, I rejoice in the hope of Your Resurrection, but I also thank you for modeling the personal hope in my life’s journey – the truth that I can change and grow and become the person You have destined for me to become.  I only ask that, from this day onward, You grant me the necessary grace for me to face and overcome my personal fears and qualms and apprehensions about taking that step into the unknown journey towards You and eternal life.  Amen.

Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing

This post first appeared on Love Alone Creates.