We know so little about Tabitha. She lived in the first century, was “devoted to good works and acts of charity,” died, and was raised from the dead by the apostle Peter. You can read her short story in the ninth chapter of Acts.
When I reflect on Tabitha, I think of the many things that have died, literally and metaphorically, in the last few years. People have literally died of COVID, and we’ve experienced many metaphorical deaths along the way as well. Think for a moment about “the way things were” way back in 2019. Goals we had for ourselves, visions of baptisms, weddings, graduations, all those things that ended up getting put on hold or canceled all together.
In our family, we have three boys, and the first two were baptized as infants. I had visions of baptizing our third child: welcoming him into the body of Christ in the new congregation I serve, passing around our baby to be held by all these new people who would love and raise him up as a follower of Christ. I was so excited to share this new baby with a church that was generous enough to call a 6-month-pregnant priest as their Rector.
However, when that dear baby was 6 months old, COVID hit. We put off his scheduled baptismal date first by two months, then indefinitely. By the time he was about to turn one, I realized my imagined version of what his baptism would be had died. I cried, and not metaphorical tears.
Maybe it seems trite to mourn something so small, but for me it symbolized my hopes for him, for my new vocation in this place, for our new home. I had to let my old hopes die. I hated it. My idea of what his baptism was going to look like had to die. Then a new idea could be raised from that death.
And so we planned a new baptism. Parts of it were lovely. We scheduled his baptism near his birthday, and it was hilarious having a walking toddler wearing a beautiful, long baptismal gown made for a baby to be cradled in their parent’s arms.
My husband, also a priest, baptized our son, in an empty church with only our immediate family present. A Zoom camera live-streamed it all, allowing our families and friends, as well as our new congregation to participate from afar. We were able to take all the pictures we wanted without being disruptive to others. When we had a slight technical glitch, we were able to laugh with everyone on Zoom. Yes, there was death, but also, there was risen life.
Tabitha died literally, of course, but I wonder what she’d been unhappy to leave behind, what felt undone. I wonder what ideas she had to let go after her resurrection. I wonder what new realities and hopes took their place.
Have you thought through what goals/visions/ideas of yours had to die in the last few years? Might you be willing to list them out, and then see what risen life might be able to come out of that death?
These last few years have been hard. And, it seems like we are “coming out the other side” (whatever that means). Instead of simply longing to be the way things were, might we be willing to do the work of acknowledging the death and sadness, and seeing where new life can be raised? Like Tabitha, can we see the ‘new’ in new life?