Saturday, April 14, 2007

Light and Life

Life and death are inseparable: the fact has never been so evident to me as during the months I spent in Benares, India. There, Hindus who are able come to live out their last days, lured by the promise of release from the cycle of reincarnation if only they can die in that holy city. There the piles of wood are stacked high and the flames stoked hot to consume the flesh of the dead. There the ashes are sprinkled on the flowing water of the Ganges River and carried away. I grew accustomed to seeing funeral processions winding their way through narrow and dusty streets, bodies wrapped in white cloth and decorated with marigolds and tinsel. The smell of cremation became familiar to me as I witnessed it over and over again. I ceased being shocked by the contrasts of life and death, of seeing bodies being burned just yards away from children playing lively games of cricket, of women scrubbing pots at water's edge, of young boys leading water buffalo to drink, of Hindu holy men performing rituals, of the bustle and color of the life of India swirling around the stark white-shrouded bodies and the consuming flame of death. At some point I learned to accept the seeming irony of this life and death dance and it became normal to me.
One hot and dusty day in India my friend Rachel and I washed the feet of several of our fellow travelers, wandering souls seeking meaning in the religions of the East. Kneeling before each person we spoke of the One who washed the feet of His disciples, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His own life as a ransom for many. Both Rachel and I are presently living our lives as wives and mamas, serving our families here in North America. The past few weeks have brought Rachel the joy of expecting a new baby and the pain of losing that same child. She joins me and countless other mamas who have delivered little souls to heaven, into the arms of Jesus. Death has wound its way through our lives, like a river, our tears joining its flowing waters. In the midst, though, of the sadness of this life shines the reminder of eternity, the brightness of Hope....

Hope, and life, for the Christian, are made possible by the Resurrection of our Lord. I have never been more ready for the celebration as I was this year. On Good Friday night I found myself walking beneath a bier representing the tomb of Christ. It was a simple thing, but in taking those steps I and my fellow worshippers declared that through His death "we have passed from death into life." (John 5:24) Late Saturday night we came together to celebrate the ultimate victory of Life over death. All light was extinguished and we waited expectantly. At midnight a single candle was held up and we were invited to "Come receive the light from the light that is never overtaken by night, and glorify Christ Who is risen from the dead". Quickly the glow of candles, symbolizing the light of Christ, filled the building and we sang loudly that "Christ is risen from the dead! By death He has trampled upon death, and has bestowed life to those in the tombs." Together we shouted "Christ is Risen!" with hearts full of joy. A passage from John's gospel was read in several languages to remind us that this good news is for all people, that the Light we've received is not to be hidden, but is to illuminate the world, the whole world....

My mind returns to the banks of the Ganges River that flows through India and through the lives of millions who've never been invited to come receive the Light. Life goes on there much as it has for centuries, the mingling of life and death like ashes on the water. Each morning countless people make their way into the flowing water to make offerings to the rising sun. Each year thousands of young people travel there searching for enlightenment. Hope there is wrapped up in dying in the right place or achieving enough good works to be reborn into paradise. How different it is from what Christ offers us: Life, freely and abundantly. Through His death and Resurrection, He gives life, freedom from the bondage of sin, and the promise of eternity with Him. In this life we are no strangers to sorrow; like the Hebrew children long ago we often sit and weep by the rivers of Babylon, longing for Zion, the City of our God. But because we serve a risen Savior, we can rise above the sadness and live joyfully here on this earth. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow, trusting that Christ will be there with us as He promised. Because He rose from the grave, I know that one day I will be reunited with my babies by the "river whose streams make glad the city of God, the Holy Place where the Most High dwells. (Psalm 46:4)
"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4-5) May the Light of Christ shine in me and through me. May it transform my life into something beautiful. May it shine in your hearts and lives too, giving you abundant and radiant life. And may it shine in the dark corners of the world where many have never seen it. May they be given life so they can lift their voices with ours and shout "Truly He is Risen!"

(This article is my submission to the blog challenge sponsored by Art Bookbindery, "Empowering Writers to Self Publish.")


  1. Hope for life. Inspiring post, God bless you

  2. Great descriptions, Rebeca. I love where you talked about washing the feet of those you "served".

    Thanks for the blessing today.

  3. Just beautiful, Rebeca. Painfully beautiful.

  4. So true, Rebeca!
    God Bless!


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