Sunday, April 04, 2010

Two months and then some

Tracey renewed her baptismal vows today. She and her husband, James, together. They both looked like starry-eyed newlyweds. I was taking their photo before church and I told them, "you two are absolutely adorable."

I met Tracey 2 months and then some ago, around the end of January. She was attending a Saturday retreat my church had organized for the rehab ladies. She was bedraggled, dressed in the scrubs of a "newbie," foggy, desperate, barely holding it together.

That's how the ladies look sometimes when they first arrive. I didn't even know her name then, but that first impression stuck hard with me. Over the next weeks, I watched her come back to life, as if she were being resuscitated before my very eyes. Her husband told me bits of pieces of his story and hers. I put the rest together from the questions she asked in class and the prayer requests she wrote down every week.

Today her long blond hair was brushed to shiny perfection. Her eyes were no longer dull and hopeless but glowing with expression. She was happy; a happy you can't fake; joyful. And her husband, James, who apparently goes by the nickname "Happy," was her equal in mood and manner.

These two have been through a hell of a lot. They are both in recovery, him about 12 months ahead of her, though apparently he never spent time in a lock-down rehab like she has. She has at least two more months to go, but you'd never know it. You'd think she was getting out tomorrow.

Tracey had decided about a month ago that she and James wanted to renew their baptismal vows. And she was very intentional that she wanted it to happen on Easter Sunday. The last few weeks, she kept reminding me of this. Each time I would laugh, assure her I was on it and then watch her smile in anticipation.

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Last week in spirituality class, I taught on the resurrection. Initially, I assumed everyone knew what that word meant. But then it occurred to me I might teach an entire class on a concept they didn't even understand from the beginning.

So I asked them ... what does resurrection mean? I got a mixed bag of answers, some which were pretty close to the mark. Then I said point-blank, it means going from being dead to being alive.

When Jesus appears in the Upper Room to his disciples, they are shocked to see him alive, moving, talking, even eating. Thomas is not with them and later announces boldly that unless he can put his fingers in the nail holes of Jesus' hands and place his hand in the spear hole in his side, he will not believe. And so ... Jesus appears to Thomas and invites him to do just that.

Thomas is dumb struck. Without even moving a step closer, he instead declares, "My God and my Lord."

"You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (paraphrase of John's gospel.)

I used to count myself among the "blessed" who had believed without having seen. But I don't anymore. I've seen too many resurrections myself at this point, women like Tracey who go from death to life before my very eyes. And I try to remind myself each time, what a miracle, what a privilege.

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