“What can I count on? What can I trust? What can I hold onto? What will be here tomorrow? How can I feel secure?” These and many other similar questions represent what I have been hearing from people over the last several weeks. To be honest, such questions have crossed my mind as well, because life as we have known it, in many respects, has been upended. While much of what it means to be alive remains in place, so much of what defines life in our culture has been significantly constrained.
As we remain in the season of Easter, I have been reflecting upon the Gospel descriptions of the morning Jesus rose from the dead. One of the most poignant stories is found in chapter 20 of John’s Gospel. Here, Mary Magdalene, whose life had been transformed by Jesus, stood weeping outside of the tomb. Consumed by grief, loss, and confusion, Jesus appears to her, although she does not recognize him at first. However, when Jesus says her name, Mary understands immediately that Jesus is before her. Jesus then says, “Mary, do not cling to me.” Or, “Mary do not hold onto me.”
Although Jesus then asks Mary to go to the disciples, I have to wonder what Mary thought at the moment Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me.” I can imagine Mary thinking thoughts such as, “OK Jesus, but what do I hold on to now? How can I let go of what I have come to trust?”
In reflecting upon this part of the story, I do not believe that Jesus was asking Mary to give up her relationship with Jesus. Nor was Jesus compelling Mary to no longer depend on Jesus. But I believe Jesus was asking Mary to let go of what she had known, what was familiar, in order to move forward in her life and in her relationship with Jesus.
It is as if Jesus was saying, “Mary, you have known me as I have been. But now it is time to let go so that your relationship with me will be even deeper, more profound, and even more life changing. You must let go of what has been familiar, in order for our relationship to be more than what it has been.”
At this time in life, when so much of what is familiar has been shaken, I have to wonder if Jesus is asking us some similar questions and in fact is inviting us to explore some things.
Is it possible, at this time in our lives, Jesus is saying things like the following. “I invite you to take a look at what has given you a sense of security in the past. To explore what you have counted upon. To look at what you have been holding onto.”
“Are there ways of being, thinking, and living you need to let go of to move into a deeper relationship with me? Could this time of grief and confusion and loss be an opportunity to re-evaluate what you have been counting on? Is this a chance to hold on to me in new ways, a chance to go deeper in our relationship, a relationship that will never go away despite circumstances?”
While we are not standing in front of Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning, all of us are standing next to the grave site of a former world. Although much will remain and many things will go on again as we have known them after this pandemic recedes, the world has been changed permanently, just as it has following other pandemics, wars, and world crises.
In the midst of it all, we have a grace-filled opportunity to let go of some things in order to move into a profoundly deeper relationship with God. Painful, hard, upsetting, discombobulating? Absolutely. Nevertheless, we have been given a profound opportunity to discover more of what God has in mind for each of us, which of course includes his boundless love.