I have in my possession, an advance copy of Michelle’s 50 women book. Do you know about that one? Do you remember the hilarious (to us) moment when Michelle, just about to submit the final manuscript to her publisher, counted the number of women about whom she’d written, and realized she was one woman short? It was a classic Michelle moment, mostly because she shared it with us. She invited us into her humanity, and had us all rolling on the floor with laughter. Then, we all pulled ourselves together, ambushed God with a bevy of prayers on Michelle’s behalf, crossed our fingers and wished on the stars, while Michelle put her head down and added one more woman to the book.
Recently, in a rare moment of calm in my life, and warm weather in my home town, I sat on my front porch and read a chapter in 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, about Anne Askew. I’d never heard of Anne Askew. When she was twenty-five years old, Anne was tortured on the rack for refusing to snitch and tell the names of others she knew who shared her beliefs about God. Seventeen days after enduring what can only be described as ghastly torture, Anne was burned at the stake as a heretic.
Today, before church began, I sat in the pew, chatting it up with my friend, Marge. Marge and I talk about everything and, somehow, I found myself telling Marge about Anne. I told Marge how Anne had been tortured, and Marge squinched up her face. Then, I told Marge that Ann had been burned at the stake, and at such a young age! Marge shuddered, and I said, “I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I could stand it.”
Marge and I both gazed into the distance for a minute, and then Marge said, “Yeah, but today, our challenges are different.” It may not be the rack, or the stake, but it’s something.
In church, we’ve been studying the Apostle’s Creed. I admit, I’ve secretly been up in arms about the whole thing, wishing we could just study the bible, already. But, as H reminded us today, when it comes right down to it, even with the Creed as our framework for the past few weeks, our focus has been strictly on the biblical account of God the Creator, and Jesus Christ, our Savior and God’s son. Today, H said to those of us facing him from the pews, he realized, he really doesn’t “get it.” The whole idea that Jesus came to Earth to live among us, to die for us, and then to be raised from the dead, is really too much to ask a human mind to comprehend. Going “all in” on something as outlandish and far-fetched as the resurrection can only be considered an act of insanity, or an act of faith. Either way you slice it, it’s one strange pill to swallow.
But, swallow it, I have. I do. Call me crazy. I choose to call it faith.
One thing I can tell you is that faith isn’t something I’ve conjured up on my own. It is clearly a gift from God. There may be a few people in this world who have less faith, and there are a ton of people who have exponentially more faith than I. I believe faith grows, when given the proper conditions, and I believe those conditions look an awful lot like worries and sorrows and grief and pain and long, dark stretches where God is nowhere to be found. I don’t know why it works like that. I don’t know why it can’t be that faith grows best in sunshine. Perhaps it’s because if a thing is to grow well it needs roots that reach down deep and that hold on tight, and all that root-growing takes place in the dark, dormant, worm-infested underbelly of the crust of the earth—places the light of day just can’t reach. I think, perhaps, the evidence of faith blooms in the sunlight as soft, vibrant petals that clap and cheer. But, the hard-won growth that matters and that holds, is the growth that happens in the dark.
And now I remember how Marge and I got to talking about Anne Askew in church today. Marge was asking me questions she’d been asked in a Lenten devotional this year, “What are the things for which you would die? Is there a person you’d die for? Which person?” Of course, the author of Marge’s devotional wanted her to understand the great sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I’d responded with the story of Anne.
Because the idea of anyone surrendering to torture and giving up their life, willingly, knowingly, for any reason, is practically incomprehensible. On a good day, when the sun is shining, and the petals are clapping—soft and vibrant—it’s exactly what I believe Jesus did for me. For you. And, after he’d been beaten beyond recognition, and hung on the cross in absolute humiliation; after Jesus gave up his spirit and was buried in a tomb where he stayed for three days, I believe a miracle happened. On a good day, I believe it because I can’t not believe it. On dark days, I believe it because I’ve seen that worm-infested underbelly of the crust of my own earth, and I think Anne Askew believed it, too. I believe she knew the resurrection is real, and that God can be trusted, and that Jesus came to save us from ourselves and from each other.
I believe the darkness is where the Light shines brightest, after all.
With Michelle, and the #HearItUseIt Community: