The rest of the story

Resurrection: Thomas poking his finger into the wound in Jesus's side

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

It’s a good blog, people tell me sometimes. But kinda depressing.

And I get that.

Monday, after all, I wrote about the court-ordered killing of a disabled woman. Wednesday I wrote about a government-subsidized organization fighting to avoid saving babies’ lives.

Horrific topics, both of them. But they’re important, I think. Things we need to think about and talk about.

How, though, do we go on facing the awful brokenness of our country, of the world–of ourselves–without just curling up in the fetal position and rocking?

* * *

I lived once upon a time in a not-quite-level old single-wide in a small town in South Alabama. How small was it, you ask. So small that there was only one radio station on the entire dial. Everything else was static. That’s where I learned—kicking and screaming all the way—to love country music, and tolerate Paul Harvey. The part of Harvey’s radio show I actually enjoyed came at the end: The Rest (and he always paused there) of the Story. Every day he would tell what he said was a true story—with a twist at the end that put everything that had gone before in a very different light.

* * *

And, yes, I know Easter has already come and gone. Easter Sunday, that is. But traditionally the Christian Church has celebrated the Resurrection for 50 days–and I for one hate to leave a good party early.

What I’m not doing is changing subjects at the end of the week. I try to write, always, about what it means to be human in this time and place.

But I think entering into what old Paul Harvey might call The Rest of the Story is integral to any conversation about euthanizing disabled people. Or after-birth abortion. Or, well, anything, really.

And integral to facing the brokenness without drowning in it. Because, just as in Harvey’s old feature stories, there’s a reversal at the end that changes everything.

Frederick Buechner tells The Rest of the Story:

So what do I believe actually happened that morning on the third day after he died?

I can tell you this: that what I believe happened and what in faith and with great joy I proclaim, is that he somehow got up, with life in him again, and the glory upon him. And I speak very plainly here, very unfancifully. He got up.

He said, “Don’t be afraid.” Rich man, poor man, child; sick man, dying; man who cannot believe, scared sick man, lost one. Young man with your life ahead of you. “Don’t be afraid.”

He said, “Feed my sheep,” which is why, like the chief priests and the Pharisees, we try to make that tomb as secure as we can. Because this is what he always says: “Feed my sheep . . . my lambs.” And this is what we would make ourselves secure from, knowing the terrible needs of the lambs and our abundance, knowing our own terrible needs.

He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Anxiety and fear are what we know best in this fantastic century of ours. Wars and rumors of wars. From civilization itself to what seemed the most unalterable values of the past, everything is threatened or already in ruins. We have heard so much tragic news that when the news is good we cannot hear it.

But the proclamation of Easter Day is that all is well. And as a Christian, I say this not with the easy optimism of one who has never known a time when all was not well but as one who has faced the cross in all its obscenity as well as in all its glory, who has known one way or another what it is like to live separated from God.

In the end, his will, not ours, is done. Love is the victor. Death is not the end. The end is life. His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream. Christ our Lord has risen.

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