Tumbling in the Sand
Monday is a good day. It is a day full of small groups. We have one that meets in the morning and one that meets in the evening. We are reading a book together called Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross. I loved the book when I read it ages ago and used it in my thesis work. I’m loving rereading it during this season of Lent with a community of people (who are also very much enjoying it!).
Lent seems a good time to think about death and life and the way that they intertwine with one another and Christine’s writing is a good guide for that as she contemplates the first act of learning that she does as a medical student—to dissect a human cadaver. It is fascinating that the first act someone going into a profession all about life and saving life has to do is to become intimately familiar with the dead. And Christine spends the whole book noting the strange interconnectedness of life and death, finding them to be less polar opposite of one another than you might think—or at least less distinguishable than you might imagine.
Partly, I think this has to do with the body. We, in this society, are quick to dismiss the individuality that our body expresses. We think that we are all in our minds. We forget that we are our bodies. We forget that our bodies bear our histories and tell our stories. We forget that who we are is etched in flesh. And who we are, then, doesn’t just disappear when that flesh stops breathing.
Besides that, our bodies are simultaneously dying and being recreated all the time. We are always in the in-between of life and death. We are always in transition, always liminal, always changing in to and out of.
I find that an interesting thought in this season of Lent, where it so often seems we want to get to somewhere—to the cross and resurrection, as if that were some sort of finality, conclusion, ending. It seems like that might not actually be the point. I’ve heard lately a great dislike of the language of Lent as a journey (which may be out of fatigue of overuse rather than anything else), and I wonder if some of that is because we are not so much going anywhere, but growing into the reality of this strange dance of our lives: between death and life, between the cross and the empty tomb, between ending and becoming. I wonder if Lent is the sprouting and blooming of the reality that we live our lives marked by both these things, and that both give our lives meaning and purpose, and that both are holy and good.