Many years ago, when my Mum was dying, we would have discussions about the meaning of life and death and what came before and what might come after.
One day, she phoned me. “Barbara,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about heaven.”
“Well,” she hesitated. “It’s just… it seems so unlikely.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Well,” she said. “Everybody who’s ever died? All in one place? Wouldn’t it get awfully crowded?”
So we had a little chat about infinite beings in infinite, eternal spaces and I suggested that maybe heaven is a bit, um… stretchy?
“Do you believe in all of that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Well, what do you believe?”
This was a bit awkward. She had taught me the tenets of her faith. Prepared me for my first communion, was my sponsor at confirmation. She heard my prayers when I was little. And now she wanted to know what bits had stuck.
“The only thing I know for sure,” I finally said, “the phrase that I hold on to is: God is love.”
“And nowhere in that phrase is there room for hell or damnation. It’s just love and wherever you find love, you find God and wherever you find God you find love.”
And she agreed that that made sense and it didn’t really matter anyway. She wasn’t afraid, just a little curious.
This weekend, Christians are celebrating Easter and, like my Mum’s view of heaven, I find it a little unlikely. But I really like the story, the idea that God created us in love, to love and we responded with all kinds of fear and messed up over and over again until we killed the messenger of love and instead of that being the end of the story, God said, “Right. Let’s try this again. Only this time, the messenger is unkillable and you’ll have to use your imaginations to find the love.”
And we’ve spent the last two thousands years trying to do that and often getting it spectacularly wrong, but sometimes we get it right and it’s wonderful. And Easter reminds us that we get to try again.
It even falls at the time of year that the earth is launching its yearly do-over. So if you find the story of Easter even more unlikely than I do, there’s the earth itself telling you that you get to try again.
We live in a society that tells us that failure and mistakes are final and really ought to be avoided. Unless, of course, it’s part of the Thomas Edison narrative of a thousand failures leading to the lightbulb. But if you can’t guarantee a lightbulb in the end, it’s best not to fail.
We believe that when love lets us down, it’s time for the relationship to end. I’ve told you my thoughts on that before. I think it’s the marriages that have been through some things that are the most inspiring. Or the couples who, no longer together, continue to care about each other.
Even believing that, I still feel awful about my failures, can still almost convince myself that it’s better not to try at all than to mess something up. Thankfully, every year there is Spring, a chance to try again. And every year there is, perhaps even better, Fall, a chance to rest up and then try again.
So whatever you’re celebrating this weekend, be it the unlikeliness of Easter or the Equinox chance to try again, may you be granted second chances. May you grant them to others, and, especially, may you grant them to yourself.