Never Dead Enough


“How dead does something have to be for God to give up on it?”

In her Pulitzer Prize winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard describes a desert plant, Ibervillea sonorae. This member of the gourd family looks like dead wood, with no roots and no stems, like a lump of coal. Lifeless, beauty-less, connected to nothing, producing nothing. “If the rain arrives, it grows flowers and fruits; these soon whither away, and it reverts to a state as quiet as driftwood.” Hoping for rain. Waiting for water. Once, in the New York Botanical Gardens, the Ibervillea sonorae waited seven years, patient and still, alive but with no water. In the eighth dry year, the plant died.

How dead does something have to appear before it is dead? How dry and lifeless and alone and fruitless does something have to be before it is actually, and finally, beyond hope? Stories of desperation, need, hopelessness, and destructive sin are all over the word of God.

Caught between Pharaoh’s furious army and the raging Red Sea. The only son of a couple who battled infertility into their old age lies cold and still. A king mired in lust and murder. A widowed foreigner and her childless mother-in-law, gathering life from discarded grain. A man being slowly digested by the stomach juices of a giant fish. Four hundred years of God’s silence.

A virgin, pregnant out of wed-lock, and could face charges of adultery and the punishment of stoning. Five thousand hungry men, plus women and children, and nothing to feed them. A man dead and buried in a tomb for four days. People plagued by leprosy and shunned by the entire community. A man blind from birth. A woman isolated, drawing water from the well alone. A crown of thorns, a bloodied back, nail-pierced flesh, and a sword in the side. Three days in a tomb.

But these things aren’t the end of the story.

How dead does something have to be for God to give up on it? All around looks like Friday. Ibervillea sonorae in the desert. Children, lifeless and unmoving. Sin and danger. Accusations. Need and disease. The Word made flesh, emptied of breath.

But Jesus says, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living for to him, all are alive.” And Jesus says, “Come to me.” And God says, “Where, O death is your sting?”

Come to the God of the living. Come. Bring your dead and dying things. Bring them here, where there is no more sting.

Bring your losses and discouragements. Bring your betrayals and failures, your consistent sins. The gossip and the greed and the laziness and the pride. Bring the loneliness and barrenness. The bed with one side cold and unwrinkled. The no-longer-needed elementary school backpack. The wedding ring thrown into the corner of the underwear drawer. The chemotherapy. The what-ifs and the if-onlys. The disappointment and rejection and regret. The addiction and affliction. The cheating and the cheated and the cheater. Bring the emptiness and the need and the longing. Bring it and lay it down and wait and see.

Nothing is dead enough.

Today might feel like Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Nothing is ever dead enough. Are you ready for a resurrection?

What is your Ibervillea sonorae that needs to be revived? What are the dead and dying things in your life that God wants to resurrect?


 Photo credit: Raw image, Edited graphic