During the winter of 1978, I worked part-time at the United Press International bureau in Cleveland. My main job was to send out school closing advisories to radio and television stations when it stormed.
We had several blizzards that winter, which meant plenty of work for me. Also, some scary commutes.
One night on my way home, I was driving down a side street when I got stuck in a pile left by a snowplow. The car wheels spun and spun, digging deeper.
There were no cell phones back then. Nobody was out on the street. I was stranded.
A terrible feeling, isn’t it?
My brain was spinning as frantically as the tires when a shadowy figure approached the car. A young man had been digging out his driveway. He heard my wheels spinning. He brought his shovel to dig me out, too.
A few swipes of his shovel and my tires had traction. I was on my way. And so very thankful for the kindness of a stranger.
Not the first time that someone had dug me out. Not the last, either.
Throughout my life, many people have help to resurrect me from my various predicaments.
We can think of resurrection in terms of the Easter stories, as something experienced a long time ago. I think that’s too limiting. In reality, resurrection happens to everybody in some ways every day. It’s all around us, within us, throughout our lives.
It’s who we are.
We all get resurrected many times. New life and new possibilities appear, especially when we think we’re beyond their reach. Even when we’ve reached those moments of despair.
We all get stuck in deathly, dark places. We make very bad choices driven by our neediness and our fearfulness. Often, others make bad choices that pull them down and drag us down with them in some ways. The normal stuff of life can take our breath away.
We start to feel like this time, we’re in too deep.
All the while, God is working endlessly to dig us out, dust us off, and love us back to life.
We all have times when we’re frightened by love. We push it away rather than taking the risk of embracing it and seeing where it takes us and how it changes us. And when we’re done pushing it away, we find ourselves in a very empty, dark, lonely place.
And God surprises us by somehow reaching into our dark space and refilling it with light and love and life.
Our obsession with control and perfection can become as confining as a coffin. Our addictions — and let’s be honest, we all have them in some ways — can take us to truly deep and dark places. We feel like we’re buried 6 feet beneath the surface of hope.
Nope. That’s when we hear the sound of someone digging frantically toward us.
Digging. Always digging.
But God never digs alone. It’s our job to do much of the difficult work of digging out from our messes. And once we’re free, to help others dig out, too.
This resurrection thing is a group project.
There will always be people in our lives who love us and who are willing to get their hands — and their reputations — all dirty and grimy in order to uncover the best in us.
They see the beauty beneath our smudges. They themselves have been dug out many times, so they know how it goes. And they don’t mind at all if some of our dirt rubs off on them. In their eyes, we’re never too dirty for them to hug.
They know from experience that it’s never too dark or too late or too hopeless. Someone is always digging, trying to make a headway into our hearts.
A divine reclamation project.
As Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it: “God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions.
“And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.”
We may emerge with grubby hair and dirty fingernails, but we’re alive once more. With new possibilities, new hope, and another invitation to embrace the great gift of life and all that it entails.