Easter is my very favorite holiday. At this wondrous time of the year, the trees bring out their lightest green foliage while azaleas and dogwoods proclaim again, in an explosion of pink, fuchsia, crimson, coral, and white, the rebirth foretold in the Scriptures. A celebration of Easter speaks to and enacts for our spirits the truth that rebirth is the seminal event in the greatest story ever told!
For Christians, The Resurrection is the foundation upon which our beliefs are set. But does not the Lord expect, as well, that our lives will also enact parables of rebirth and resurrection? So are there any ways in which we fail to validate the gift of our creation? Fail to validate the miracle granted each of us daily when we awake to another day on earth, for each day is a rebirth, is it not?
But besides being spiritually awake to the miracle of each morning’s gracious rebirth, are there other ground rules that attach to our daily resurrection? Nope, our lives are not bound by any such rules—our lives are “given.” The Lord leaves how we will “live” each day up to us. He has told us what would please Him, though–to live lives that are meaningful.
And that’s good because doing the work to live a purposeful life is the only means of feeling “happier” from day to day, from one re-birth to the next. As Tal Ben-Shahar tells us in his book Happier (McGraw-Hill, 2007), happiness is not a binary event that we turn ON or OFF like a light switch. It is not a finite, definable point or a destination, either. Happiness is a continuum. Our daily resurrection to the morning brings life to that continuum along which we pursue happiness as we frame our goal of making something meaningful out of the time, space, and matter we are given.
Of course, The Scriptures offer many other profound teachings about what we can add to the day to make it even more savory. But near the top of my list, probably because I am so infirm in complying, is that we should be slow to judge others! Rather, we are told to internalize our judgments, candidly assessing to ourselves how we see our lives playing out and what we think we can do to make our walk along the continuum more meaningful.
One of the most popular series on television last year and this was Downton Abbey on PBS. The series follows the lives of the privileged Grantham family in early 20th-century England as well as the lives of those who served them. In explaining the show’s popularity, Theodore Dalrymple writes that “Everyone needs (and almost everyone finds) someone to look down on.” His comment about the true source of viewers’ enjoyment reminds me of a story I read about a group of beggars in India who lived primarily off the garbage in the town dump. Even so, they held themselves as higher in worth than a certain other group of beggars. Why did they look down upon the other group? Because they themselves foraged a higher grade of garbage!
But I think Mr. Dalrymple is wrong. Surely we all have fits of envy or an irrational judgment that puts down another person–that’s a marker of our mortal design–but do those sudden emotions ever feel good? Do they motivate us to like the source? Have you felt nurtured when flush with jealousy or envy? My friends, not one of us should spend our lives looking down on others. That doesn’t make us happy or feel we are using our lives in a meaningful way.
To be nurtured and comfortable, we should spend our lives seeking out individuals to look up to. Fortunately, there are so many of them around each of us! What we call greatness begins with a conscious and constant resurrection of the spirit. As the Lord is the King of The Universe, does that not make each of us, his children, royalty as well? As “royal” at least as Lord Grantham and his children at Downton Abbey?
If you don’t see your life as meaningful yet, rejoice at your courage in coming to that conclusion. In doing so, the truth will surely set you free! Hope erupts from such self-honesty. And, as St. Paul tells us, “Hope never disappoints.” When devoid of hope the soul lies fallow in regret. The soul, in that condition, does not find the miracle of resurrection in each morning’s awakening.
Choose to live in hope. But remember that St. Paul’s hope is not a mushy notion, like hoping for a good parking space right in front of the store; it’s a hope infused with the will and the way, the intent to be reborn with each dawn a more perfect, trusting, and living being as we reaffirm the majesty of our lives and the God who created us. How appropriate, then, that we begin this awareness now, at Easter, a time of rebirth.