Out of the hundreds of books—novels, novellas, short stories, nonfiction— that I’ve read in my lifetime, none has a story as strange as the one which Christians celebrate this weekend. Whenever I read the tale of Easter, I feel perplexed. Most of us don’t. Most of us are either skeptical or unquestioning. In the first instance, what’s with a dead guy coming back to life? Resurrection’s a nice metaphor—it’s spring and the daffodils are rising from the dead, and beyond that, it’s whatever. At the opposite extreme, there are those Christians who have absolute faith in Jesus, the tombstone-roller with a string of miracles already on his resume. Easter’s the ultimate one-off. He’s God, after all.
I’m neither a dismissive skeptic nor a hard-core believer. I’m a writer who loves and appreciates the mystery of life that surrounds us, who knows that in creative moments, it’s possible to step outside the confines of time and to glimpse extraordinary visions. “Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged,” wrote Virginia Woolf, “but a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”
Mystery counts for me as a writer—awe and wonderment, respect for those things that we cannot understand, even as we struggle to express them in words. Mystery drives us onward. In this spirit, I’m also a student of theology, and with great literary and scholarly interest, I’ve studied the four gospels and their breathless eyewitness accounts of the first Easter morning, none of which quite agree. As a writer, I approach these heartfelt and puzzling declarations, mindful of the “luminous halo” that also enveloped those scribes of long ago, sensing the truth-value of statements that are beyond me. I conclude that there’s no way to prove or disprove the events of Easter.
Yet as a writer, I’m not dismayed by this claim of resurrection. It’s just too mysterious, too full of wonder to dismiss outright. It’s the strangest story, real and surreal, filled with both reportage and narrative invention. It invites us to peer through the veil of time, and there the story ends. Or maybe it just keeps right on going, as good stories do, alive in the world and in us.