By: Eric Rucker
Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” - John 20:27
Jesus was dead for three days - exiled from life. And his disciples were likewise exiled during that time - their teacher and Lord was dead, and the movement for which they had given everything appeared finished. They hid in a locked room together, afraid.
The nature of Jesus’ return from exile - and the disciples’ subsequent return to faith - are notable. The resurrection is not characterized by abstract, intellectual, or other-worldly revelations about God’s work of restoration. The disciples do not have ecstatic, heavenly visions that take them away from their bodies and the earth. Rather, Jesus’ return is characterized by the most basic, most human experiences: touch, sight, taste.
The resurrected Jesus invites the disciples to look at his wounds, to touch his body, to eat a meal with him around a fire on the lakeshore.
Likewise, as our society slowly returns from exile, I wonder whether our healing might come through encountering God in the simple immediacy of our surroundings.
For the last few months I’ve been engaging the spiritual practice of “savoring.” Before I go to bed, I turn off my phone, take a few deep breaths and close my eyes. And then I review my day to appreciate something of goodness therein. But this savoring is not an intellectual process. It is not a time to react to, judge, or attempt to fix things that have happened. Rather it is a time to activate the body and heart.
I review my day with the goal of lifting up at least one moment that can simply be enjoyed with gratitude, to be held with wonder. Sometimes that is a moment of connection with my son as we shared a joke, or a small, unnoticed act of generosity my spouse took for me. Sometimes it is the silhouette of swaying prayer flags hitting my kitchen wall in the dusk sunlight, or the stunning vulnerability of a baby sapphire chick as she learns to walk in our backyard.
Anything can convert you into deeper love if you bring to it a full and open heart - a robin, a rock, spring wind against your face. Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said that “If I was to truly see a caterpillar even once, I would never need to listen to another sermon.”
If this all sounds too poetic to be true, and elicits cynicism or anxiety for you, I empathize. Maybe you feel too broken by this last year to move toward wonder right now. Or maybe it’s really hard to sit still long enough to “savor” anything. Or maybe the world (or the church!) had told you it’s selfish to stop and treasure that you are alive for 60 seconds.
The good news of the resurrection is that we don’t have to be unblemished to participate in joy. We don’t have to have graduated from the school of life to start receiving the gift of life. We don’t have to “have it all together.” That is because Jesus’ resurrected body was also his scarred body. The miracle wasn’t that God stopped Jesus from going into exile. It was that Jesus found life after exile, integrating his wounds into a new life with his community.
Like a fish who doesn’t know he’s breathing water, I walk around missing divinity that upholds and pervades every moment. But I’m taking baby steps to wake up to the miracles around me.
As we return from exile, the wounded and resurrected Jesus returns with us. He reaches out his scarred hands to touch this life with us. Stop. Listen. Feel. There are signs of hope and healing all around, if we would reach out and touch them.