On the days when I believe...

Musings on life, death, and the afterlife

“On days when I believe…” Rachel Held Evans voice mixes with Kate Bowlers from No Cure for Being Human and reminds me that nothing is certain, nothing is promised, and life if it is to be really lived is an exercise in courage. Each day requires overcoming and force of will. Sometimes I seem to thrive on all the busy but sometimes I just drop all the plates and stand listlessly as they shatter into pieces at my feet. 

On the days when I believe, I think of course there's a new earth and a life eternal because it fits with the nature of God for that to be so. On the other days if I’m honest, and I’m here to tell the truth after all, I say I need there to be an afterlife because the finitude of this one terrifies me. On the days in between, I think it doesn’t really matter because all life is a gift. 

I joke with my husband that our marriage feels long because I never expected it to happen in the first place. It seemed too good to be true. I was at least half-way convinced one of us would die before we got to the altar (I was also dealing with untreated anxiety at the time). So just getting married was amazing and each anniversary has felt like a bonus. 

It’s not too big a stretch to also see life that way. And I don’t mean in some overwrought “make every moment count” kind of exhortation because as Kate Bowler said, we’re humans, not accountants. 

I write in my upcoming book, Inward Apocalypse, how I used to think God spoke to me directly, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything that really resembles that. Rather, people, community, and books often arrive as answers to the questions in my heart, the prayers that I still think God hears, but I don’t often even voice any more. One of the few things I’m convinced of on days whenI believe is that prayer is not some magic formula where you only get answers for if you say the right things. I think prayer comes in many forms, spoken and unspoken, from hidden questions we dare not voice and intentions we are barely aware we have. If we are created by God and believe that we are living in God and God is in us, then it doesn’t make sense to have to follow any sort of formula. (Public liturgy is different as it sets communal intentions, but that’s a thought for another time). 

I think Rachel’s death hit me so hard because of a number of things. She was so young, almost two years younger than me, and was also the mom of two small children even younger than mine. She’d written four books to date and I’d been sitting on the feeling that I needed to write for several years without actively acting on it. I felt she had so much more to give and so many people were praying for her. Of course she couldn’t die. Not like that. But freak accidents happen and answers to prayer often don’t look like what we want them to look like. 

Enter the pandemic less than a year later and I found myself wrestling with genuine fear about my own mortality. Kate Bowler’s book No Cure for Being Human, read right before Rachel’s book arrived last week combined to answer the questions for me in the sense that the questions are unanswerable. And there’s a strange sort of peace with that. Life in itself is a gift. 

And of course as I write this, sharing what is true for me, I think of all the suffering going on, and all the people we’ve said goodbye to too early especially over the past 2 years. I think of children with cancer and predatory health systems and all of the ongoing injustices of our time. I think of people raging against the early death of a loved one, it was too soon, and the anger is real. 

I’m not trying to tell you how to be, nor am I trying to say that this life doesn’t have its share of brutality, pain, and anger. But I can’t help feel that even though none of those things are good, and none of them are gifts: this life, this fleeting existence on this mistreated yet gorgeous blue-green gem of a world, is still a gift. 

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Book News: Inward Apocalypse

I’m excited to announce that as of October 13th, I’m under contract with Resource Publications an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers for my book Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good to be released late next summer or early fall.

Stay tuned right here for more details on the launch and how you can join the launch team!


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