When the darkness nearly swallowed my gentle friend last March 14th, it was dawn. The light may have been emerging, but not with any triumphant blast. The sun labored in its rising.
Drinking coffee in the kitchen in the quiet house, I did not expect a phone call at that hour. I’ve gone back to that moment many times, contemplating how I was sitting in a peaceful home while my gentle friend labored in his rising to escape angry fists.
The news jolted me from sleepy morning thoughts. Adrenaline raced through my body, compelling me to go to my friend and those tending to his hurting body. I knew not what to do or think, but I did know that I needed to bear witness to the tragedy – to name that this gentle friend deserved a steady stream of kindness, not a sudden assault.
I started swimming laps last fall, an act of humility as I transitioned out of congregational ministry. I humbled myself before our kids’ swim teacher, and I learned the freestyle stroke. I’m not very good at it, though I can now last 45 minutes in the pool before getting out to bow in awe before all the swimmers who lap me.
I’ve found that the pool is the best place for prayer, getting my mind off of worries and keeping my eyes locked on the black line on the bottom of the pool. I’m finding that I believe best when I’m in the water.
One of my worn-out phrases in prayer is an affirmation: This is a resurrection story. Dr. Curtis Freeman once reminded me of this good news when thick in my research on traumatizing theology. The phrase became my favorite swimming prayer when another Curtis came into my life – a lifeguard who corrected me for poor form (an exercise in humility, to say the least)
I roll the phrase around my soul as I swim, “This is a resurrection story.” I bring to mind people, places, and situations, and I speak the blessing over them: This is a resurrection story.
When I met my gentle friend for lunch last month, we talked about the upcoming first anniversary of that awful dawn. I shared how I pray for him while I swim. He is a resurrection story. Darkness threatened to take his life, but evil intent has not had the last word. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over how grateful I am for this fact.
I resent how resurrection stories begin at dawn. Were I in charge of the cosmos, I would want all resurrection stories to be possible without uncertainty or threat.
But when I’m courageous enough to follow the path all the way from the start of the day (when all feels lost) to the finish (when all feels found), I marvel that Resilience is our Maker’s fingerprint forged deep down in our souls.
Bruised skin heals.
Bones regain their strength.
Light shines beautifully through stained glass.
We journey onward from dawn to dusk because this is a resurrection story.