I know we often lose, and that the death or destruction of another is infinitely more real and unbearable than one’s own. I think I know how many times one has to start again, and how often one feels that one cannot start again. And yet, on pain of death, one can never remain where one is. . . . It is a mighty heritage, it is the human heritage, and it is all there is to trust. . . . This is why one must say Yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found – and it is found in terrible places; nevertheless, there it is; and if the father can say, “Yes, Lord,” the child can learn that most difficult of words, Amen.
—James Baldwin, Nothing Personal,
Death comes in all sorts of ways in our lives. Literal deaths are what we most often think about, of course … loved ones who have passed from this world into the next. I’ve been somewhat immersed in these kinds of death recently, as I had two funerals last week. But there are a host of other grief’s that we also endure in life. The loss of jobs, the loss of independence, the loss of childhood, the loss of innocence. Each mini-death brings with it some of the same power of those literal and relational deaths that we experience.
In some ways, our current pandemic, brings its own collection of “mini-deaths” into our lives. We lose some of our freedom, as we consciously restrict our ability to do what we want, for the safety of others around us. We lose some of our rituals, as they have become dangerous activities for contracting and spreading the virus. We lose some of our relationships, as friendships built solely on digital communication struggle to remain vibrant. The virus also brings death in a more visceral way, as some of you have lost loved ones and friends to death due to the virus.
This is where Baldwin’s words become such a powerful benediction for me. For they are an encouragement to embrace life as it is found in the present and the future. They are a reminder that the little deaths we face in life can never be allowed to break the spirit of hope that God has blessed us with. And that loss of any sort, large or small, does not have to result in despair. Baldwin’s words are a strong encouragement to move forward with life, and to trust in the goodness that God has placed at the very core of creation – to say “Amen” even when we may not understand all of the forces and currents at work around us. They are words grounded in the hope we find in the Resurrection to New Life.
So, as you pray and meditate this week, think about the places in your life where there is grief … places in which God might be calling you forward into hope again. Ponder those places where God desires that the temptation of despair will be overcome with the promise of life again. Consider, if you dare, those tombs from which God wants to roll away the stone in order to call you forth into new life again. Say “yes” to life and embrace it wherever it is found. Trust that God will give you the courage to voice the “Amen” that God has in mind for you.