“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
Sound familiar, church? Is anyone feeling this alongside me? In the March 26 Anabaptist World, Danielle Klotz wrote, “In this issue we’ve collected articles that encourage us to hold what has been lost as communities of faith and to imagine what we might create for the future.”
Klotz didn’t speak of holding that which we’ve lost while desperately trying to regain it. No, she called for imagining what it (or we) might become. Something, perhaps, other than what we’ve been. This is the holy work of those for whom, like Humpty Dumpty, recovery of the old is no longer an option.
Richard Rohr has said the promise of faith “is that something will be born of the ruin, something so astoundingly better than the present moment we cannot imagine it.”
While that sounds terrifically hopeful, especially in a year of so much breaking apart, it also lays bare a present problem: lack of imagination.
We are people of the resurrection. We believe in the revitalization of dead and broken parts. But too often all we want, all we can conceive of, is to be put back together the way we were before. We can’t imagine anything else.
Humpty’s story begins, as many of ours do, with a breaking apart. Life upended. We are not privy to what toppled this egg-man. All we know is he fell from perch to pavement and shattered.
What came next is what always comes next: the impulse to put it all together again and get back to where he was.
Nice, neat, normal — and now, please!
But the truth is, sometimes we fall, and it breaks us. We are upended, shattered, feeling as if we’re coming apart at the seams.
We might feel that way right now. After a year of life disrupted by the pandemic, we’re not where we used to be. It’s unnerving.
If we are ill-equipped to deal with the unexpected and unwanted truths of our painful situations, we and all the king’s men will wrongly expend our energies in frantic efforts to fix things. To fix us, or it, or them, leaving no room for reimagining.
In The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser speaks of two types of death and two ways of being restored to life.
“There is resuscitated life and there is resurrected life,” Rolheiser says. “Resuscitated life is when one is restored to one’s former life and health.
. . . Resurrected life is not this. It is not a restoration of one’s old life but the reception of a radically new life.”
When we’ve been upended, we have two options: resuscitation or resurrection.
If resuscitated, we get our old lives back. That’s it. That’s my initial ask when I hit the pavement.
I’ve come to believe, however, it is too small a thing to ask. Why settle for resuscitation when we can experience resurrection?
With God there is always the possibility that something new can be made of us, both individually and corporately. But we can’t receive the new while longing for or clinging to the old.
I find I need to give up all hope of resuscitation before I can imagine resurrection. I need to lay the old down before the new can emerge. I need to stop trying to get back to who, how and where I was in order to be available to where I actually am and who or what I may become.
Surely God’s creativity is not so limited as to have to put us back together the way we were before.
If we can release what’s already gone, we can begin to wonder at what we might become.
In the words of poet John O’Donohue: “May we have the courage to take the step into the unknown that beckons us; Trust that a richer life awaits us there; That we will lose nothing but what has already died.”
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