Death has been swallowed up by a victory.
Where is your victory, Death?
Where is your sting, Death?
(Death’s sting is sin, and the power of sin is the Law.) Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! As a result of all this, my loved brothers and sisters, you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:54-58
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he also shared the same things in the same way. He did this to destroy the one who holds the power over death—the devil—by dying. He set free those who were held in slavery their entire lives by their fear of death.
~ Hebrews 2:14-15
For those who were there or are willing to look, it’s no real secret that a few years ago my wife attended the annual Women’s March in Austin with a friend. Her reasons for going are somewhat less known. In many cases, this is because those who took notice of her presence at the march were considerably less interested in hearing her reasons for attending than they were their own assumptions about why she went. Then, as now, our nation and church situates themselves in a place where nuance, complexity, and depth are often lost to the more blunt and vulgar narratives of partisan politics, of elephants and donkeys.
In the weeks after the march, I was frequently asked why she marched. (It is telling that, so far as I know, no one bothered to ask her why she marched.) As if she only went because I had given her my permission, I was grilled as to why I was okay with her (a Christian!) participating in the Women’s March when there was so much sinful stuff happening around her. Why didn’t she leave when she saw how bad it was? My answer, of course, was because my wife takes communion.
The table is the place where we gather every week as racists, bigots, adulterers, liars, thieves, addicts, idolaters, hypocrites, gossips, gluttons, greedy opportunists, abusers, rabble rousers, drunks, and law breakers. We gather as those who are prideful, judgmental, accusatory, stubborn, lustful, angry, spiteful, apathetic, contentious, self-righteous and … well, you can imagine how this list could go on and on and on …
What’s more: Each Sunday, I find myself at more places on that list than I care to admit.
And God has made room for all of us messy, broken people at his table, redeeming us in the middle of that messiness. God reminds us of who he is at his table. He is the one who left heaven to wade into the messiness of our existence. And, he is the one who sends us out from the table, into his messy world.
So, it’s no more shocking nor objectionable to me when my wife would follow him into the middle of it all at the Women’s March than it was when a group of ladies from a former congregation decided a few years back to follow Jesus into the middle of it all and minister to strippers in their dressing rooms.
This is to say that, for my wife, it was theological. It was christological and pastoral. It was not political in any modern sense of the word. Here’s what I’m suggesting:
What happens if you begin without the assumption that the only way of making change was via the government or the assumption that the only purpose of marching was to try and force the government to change? (Because, you know – you don’t believe change is contingent on the government.) What if, instead, you believed that the way to make change in the world was to follow in the way of the kingdom by building relationships rooted in the sort of love God demonstrated in the person of Jesus?
Why would you march? One reason might be that reimagining our assumptions as described above leads to the possibility of marching for someone rather than against something or someone. It opens the possibility of the act being more about saying to others, “I hear you in your darkness,” rather than saying to the government, “I demand you listen to my voice.” If you reconfigure your imagination in this way, it doesn’t matter so much why other people are walking down the street next to you. In fact, your individual presence in the march is probably politically insignificant on a national, state, regional, or local level – even if you are marching against someone or something. But relationally, the act stands to carry great power for the loved one struggling in the darkness whom you have marched for.
This marching for, this symbolic act of solidarity and advocacy, driven by the love Christ had shown her, a love she intended to share with others regardless how the partisan among our community would react, this marching for is why she was there. And she was seen. Not only by those who whispered against her, caring for their assumptions more than her reality, but also by those who were hurting. Those who were holding the darkness inside, too ashamed to tell their story – to step into the light – lest people think them sullied or irredeemable or somehow deserving of the sins thrust upon them by their abusers. She marched for them and they saw and it opened a door, however small the crack, for healing.
I say this because she needs to be seen. Often, people will only see the quiet woman who is so inundated with our brood at worship she can seem aloof. Others will never look past her blue hair and tattoos. Others still will look at her, see she is not a good Republican, and lean into unfortunate assumptions. What they miss is the deep strength and character the Spirit has formed in my wife. What they miss is the passionate advocacy she offers for those on the margins. What they miss is her determination to use her voice for those who have been denied theirs.
Having been set free from the fear of death, she uses her freedom to bring others into the healing and love Jesus has given her. And, in doing this, she has taught me more about what it means to follow Jesus than any fifty teachers and preachers I’ve had in my life.
My favorite of her many tattoos is the one on the back of her neck. It is the seal of the Moravian Church. The seal depicts the Slaughtered Lamb carrying the banner of the cross. Around the edges are the words, “Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur.”
“Our Lamb has conquered. Let us follow him.”
PS: You really should check out her new post about why she advocates for rape and abuse victims. You can find it here.