Summer ⇒ Fall ⇒ Winter ⇒ Spring.
Infatuation ⇒ Relationship ⇒ Love ⇒ Heartbreak.
Start ⇒ Study ⇒ Learn ⇒ Test.
Hope ⇒ Faith ⇒ Struggle ⇒ Faithless.
Life is made up of cycles we all go through. We all start at different points. Some progress through cycles many times and others may remain in the same stage for their entire life.
The planets of our solar system cycle around the sun, Earth’s cycle creating our year which we use to track time.
Stars are formed through the accumulation of mass, they live for billions of years spewing light into the universe, and then they die in a magnificent display of heat, energy, and power spreading heavy elements throughout space.
These elements become the building blocks of life. We are born made of them, we live constantly replenishing them in our bodies throughout our lives, and then we die returning these materials of life to the earth where they will contribute to the coming of new life.
There is a pattern to it, a rhythm of life.
A story, a metaphor, an allegory (whatever you want to call it or believe about it) of this process is given to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
If you are within the Christian tradition, and even if you’re not, this exact cycle is often seen within our own faith journeys. Furthermore, I believe this process is necessary for a mature and flourishing faith. Allow me to explain (keep in mind that the order of this cycle varies for everyone).
Do you remember the first time God seemed real to you? The first time you believe you felt His presence? Do you remember the first time your meditation led you to feel something greater than yourself existed? And that you were a part of that something?
Do you remember a time when your faith was not faith at all because it seemed so certain?
This is the stage where you are excited about your new view of the world. You read and learn about the life Jesus lived and strive to mimic it. Love becomes more than a word or feeling but also an action. People often get baptized in the Christian tradition at this point. Or perhaps they choose to go on a mission trip and feed the hungry or clothe the naked. It truly is an exciting time and I believe a time to be enjoyed.
But we rarely remain there.
For some this death is literally the death of a loved one; for others it is a betrayal, a loss of innocence, or a crumbling worldview. Sometimes a person you respected and idolized hurts you or lets you down. Perhaps your intellectual achievements and advancement slowly destroys this “fairy-tale” belief that you once held.
Whatever the cause, death of the life you once enjoyed ensues.
Jesus was betrayed by even his closest disciple Peter. He was falsely testified against by his own people. He was beaten and killed by those in a position of power.
When we go through the death of faith, the loss of our tradition, the destruction of our belief system it feels, quite literally, like a beating. We respond (perhaps rightly so) with anger and sadness.
You may feel deceived by those who taught you, betrayed by friends who left you, and even embarrassed that you ever believed in such fantasies and myths.
Indeed, this is a time for mourning and grief.
However, the hope of the Jesus story and the very essence of Christianity is the hope of life after death, of resurrection. I am not referring to what happens after we die, in my opinion the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about that, but rather I am referring to once again experiencing life here and now, before a physical death.
The beauty of Christianity is the teaching that even after the death of our faith, of our hope, even of our God, there is life.
We experience resurrection not when we push down the pain and pretend we are fine, that only leads to bitterness and more death. But rather, we experience it when we go deep into the pain, we sit in it for a time, and then move through it. Only then will you make it to the other side. Scars remain but the resurrection of Christ is made true in your life every time you experience this process.
Just as the death of a star led to life on this planet and a fallen tree provides nutrients for the next one, so does the death of our faith provide the building blocks of new life.
Life is messy.
Life is painful.
Life is beautiful.
Life is cycles.
Grace and mercy ⇒ peace and love.