I have spent much of my life living in the northeastern part of our state, and it is a wonderful place to live.
However, when living in this part of the state, I find I must drive to Sioux Falls often for meetings, or, when I was younger, would drive to St. Paul for seminary, and that means I have to drive east on Highway 12. When I would arrive, the question would always be the same, “How was the trip?” And I answer, “It was good…well, except…”
And there was no need to go further, everyone who lives in the northeastern part of the state driving east on Highway 12 knows how the sentence ends. What we are saying is, “It was good…well, except for the Summit corridor.” This is a stretch of road stretching, more or less, from Waubay to Milbank.
Now, let me be clear here, I am not mocking Summit, or the people who live there. I have found the people in that area to be kind and generous, and the people who work at the Coffee Cup, which stands at the I-29 junction, are always kind and a smiling delight when taking a driving break.
But let’s be honest, the weather there is the worst.
It is kind of a running joke in this part of the state, that someone around there must have done something pretty awful to have weather like that; a person can be driving along, enjoying the weather and the beauty of the state and then, almost without warning, everything changes.
It can be 80 degrees and sunny, light breeze and springtime beautiful all the way from Aberdeen, and then you get to the interstate and for 39.2 miles, you can encounter a blizzard, and hail, and blinding fog, leading to a hydroplaning thunderstorm and two tornados. It’s crazy and exhausting.
When you stop at the Coffee Cup, you can tell those who are driving east and those driving west. The western drivers look dazed from what they have experienced and the eastern drivers look terrified at what they are facing.
It makes the journey interesting, that’s for sure.
Which is the way things are, a truth that we often forget. I remember, when I was an adolescent, having an issue with Easter, what it proclaimed, and what I saw around me. We gathered and, for 50 days, sang songs and heard homilies and prayers proclaiming that Christ was risen and had conquered death.
And yet, people still died.
We heard homilies telling us that Jesus had destroyed sin, and yet, father would remind us again and again that we needed to go to confession.
For my young mind, it was difficult to reconcile these two apparent contradictions. Why was there still sin, why was there still death, when we believe and celebrate Christ’s victory over both?
Of course, we have to understand what it means to say Christ has conquered, that by “dying He destroyed our death, rising He restored our life.” Christ’s resurrection has given us the possibility of freedom from the power of sin to rule our lives, and the ability to hope in a life that survives even death. We are not held captive by either.
It does not mean we will not sin, or that we will not die. These are aspects of our lives that will always be there; and this is not necessarily a bad thing. We tend to think that our journey through life is meant to be easy and struggle free, “smooth driving” if you will, and life is not like that, nor should it be.
The ongoing work of conversion in our lives gentles our hearts, teaches us humility and empathy and continues to move us forward. The simple knowledge that we, and everyone we love, will someday die teaches us that life is fragile and never to wait to enjoy life, to grow, to become the person we are born to be. There will always be events to attend, work to do, details to cover, schedules that groan under the weight of our obligations.
We will never have a smooth, peaceful journey that affords us the easy opportunity to do what we must do to make our lives meaningful.
This is our life, in its reality. If we think the journey should always be sunshine and peace, if we think there should never be struggle or hard priorities to set, if we think that we may somehow achieve a perfect and sinless state in life, free of the sting of death, then we will always be disappointed, and the glory of Easter will seem a sad illusion.
Easter is a time to remember the reality of who we are, and how we live, again. Easter is a time to hear the glorious song of the Easter Vigil, “O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”