April 9, 2010

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

The continuing promise and reality of Easter

Cynthia DewesEaster has come and gone, and these are the first days of the rest of our lives.

It’s an auspicious time for a new beginning—a term which is redundant, actually, because what else is a beginning but new?

Having died to sin with Christ on the Cross, we are now prepared by his Resurrection to live joyfully with God forever.

The thing is, we often feel no different than we did before Lent began. We still owe more money than we are making, our children still disappoint us now and then, and we are still carrying extra pounds that won’t go away. We may wish we had a better job or a better car or (gasp!) a better spouse. Where is the Easter in all this?

Well, nobody said it would be easy. After all, think what Jesus had to go through on Good Friday—just for us. Our problems pale by comparison. We need to readjust our attitude, not complain about reality.

Recently, I heard a radio interview in which a college professor who had become a quadriplegic because of Lou Gehrig’s disease discussed his outlook on life. He is not sorry for himself, not ridiculously optimistic and not stoical either. Rather, he is thoughtful about what living truly means.

Gone is physical mobility in favor of technology that enables him to speak and to dictate his writing. He can still teach, read, eat, enjoy sex, and be present to his wife and children. And, while he realizes that some of these abilities may disappear with time and eventually the disease will kill him, he plans to do whatever he can as long as he can without complaint. He is an atheist who does not believe in an afterlife so for him it is now or never.

It was interesting to me that this self-professed atheist nevertheless said he had learned from his disease that there is a “higher power” out there somewhere beyond man’s efforts to control everything.

As is common in these inspirational stories, he had discovered that what really matters in life is love, that amorphous, indescribably force that believers call God.

Beyond professional ambition or monetary reward or even the admiration of peers, he found the love of his wife, children and friends the sustaining fact of his existence.

He also found that he is capable not only of receiving love, but also of giving it despite his affliction. In fact, it is imperative for him. He is a history professor passionate about his work so he shares that love with his students as well as readers of his books and articles. He has a sense of humor and is an interesting conversationalist, sharing himself in those ways with his family and friends.

Our limitations are usually not as great as this man’s are in daily life so we have more opportunities to be Easter people. It sounds corny, but as he discovered, it is the simple things that make a life. And they have nothing to do with class or income or education.

If one or two of our senses are impaired, we can develop the others. We can pet our dog’s furry coat, create a poem or a perfect apple pie, and read stories to our grandkids. We can feel the wind and the sun’s glory every morning and evening. We can be silent with God or hilarious with company.

As our quadriplegic friend discovered, it’s the small things that make life satisfying and worthy. On the Easter journey to God, we can only try.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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